Joseph Conrad's novel, Heart of Darkness, later the basis for the Viet Nam movie, Apocalypse Now, famously ends with the protagonist's dying whisper: "the horror, the horror..."
Such words seem to summarize the prophet Jeremiah's message in chapters 7-10. "My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me." laments God's mouthpiece to the unfaithful people. "For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded, I mourn and dismay has taken hold on me," he groans. "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?"
Jeremiah's assessment of the situation is that his people are faithless/unfaithful. Their hearts do not belong to the God Who saved them and planted them in the land. The people foolishly look to gods which did not create the world. They are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me," says the Lord,"Let everyone beware of his neighbor , and put no trust in any brother..." It goes on and on about lies and mistrust.
Are things so bad here today? Is it the case (per the media) that the government and business, the police and the military are nothing but scoundrels? Is everyone a liar and a thief? I think not. I think my world and experience is not so unpleasant as all that. But the time of Jeremiah was literally a moment of Divine wrath and judgment; perhaps in his day there were people who though he had overstated his case. Perhaps they were thinking "it isn't so bad."
Even so, one cannot argue that there is carnage about us: pollution, disease, unfairness and economic inequality. Lost loves and broken relationships, shattered dreams and hopelessness. People often are angry; violence in word and deed does occur. If things are good they are not always good, nor are they good for everyone.
The malady, at its heart, is the 'other gods' (the powers to which we pledge allegiance rather than embrace God's way). Worship is a submission to Him, in ways which are life giving for us and for others. Obedience is Kingdom compliance with values and virtues which will make our world a better more humane place. Our Gospel reading this morning is point on. (John 8:12) Jesus said "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." He who follows Me...
Following Jesus (discipleship) is the key to faith.
Where Jesus walked He left behind people who were healed, freed, reconciled; people with hope and joy and new purpose. That is the Kingdom. It is what Jeremiah called his people to embrace. It is what Jesus calls His people to embrace. It is the same then as now. The problems we face--all of them--are a function of infidelity to God. In Lent we are called to get our heads on straight and embrace choices that mean we follow Him. The alternative is "the horror, the horror...and a heart of darkness." GO follow Jesus! GO to the Light.