The daily office readings today can be overlooked easily as we focus on the eucharistic celebration of the Last Supper. It is, after all, Maundy Thursday (or Holy Thursday in Roman churches). Maundy is related to the word mandate--Jesus' command to wash feet/serve as He did--and the readings will focus on eucharist because today is the day Jesus gave us that most wonderful gift. More on that later, as I will share my sermon notes.
The section we read from Jeremiah from the Morning Prayer/Evening Prayer lectionary is stunning. Jeremiah 20 is a powerful text and it provides us insight into the reluctant prophet who is faithful. (Sort of the anti-Jonah)
Pashhur the priest was offended by Jeremiah's preaching, so he had Jeremiah flogged (think typology and Jesus) and then briefly jailed. Upon his release, Jeremiah pronounced a word of doom upon this man and declared there will be "terror all around", all the wealth will be taken away, exile and death is forthcoming. The "false prophet" Pashhur is condemned. Yet, Jeremiah has no delight in such a message. One would think it would be vindication for him, being flogged is no small indignity (and it was terribly painful--it is torture). However, the verses that follow are an accusation against God of mind-boggling proportions.
You enticed me O Lord (Hebrew 'patah' is used for sexual seduction in Exodus 22:16, Hosea 2:16 Judges 14:15, 16:5), and I was enticed; You overpowered me and You prevailed (Hebrew verbs connote rape). I have become a constant laughingstock, everyone jeers at me.
By verse 14, Jeremiah bemoans the day he was born (accursed be the day that I was born) and curses those who were happy at his birth "because he did not kill me before birth." He wishes he had never been born.
To bring God Almighty up on such charges is certainly not pious talk, so why would a prophet do such a thing?
In the end, one reason I think the Bible is true is because of such lines as this in the text of Scripture. It is so true to our human experience. Life is not always pleasant. Being faithful to God can feel like a burden. God is love, but love is not only gentle and soft--it can also be hard as nails. Jeremiah, a man who knew God intimately, certainly in ways that I have not ever claimed to know Him, was able to speak such words because He truly knew God. His God talk is not foreign to the real world, in fact, it illuminates it.
You and I need not only embrace pious-talk and say things which are G-rated and happy clappy. We are not required to pretend that everything's perfect. We are not required to sanitize everything in an effort to sound like we are better than we really are.
God is faithful. Jeremiah knew that, too. God's fidelity means salvation, in the end, for all those who embrace Him. Yet embracing Him, especially in ministering in His Name, will not be easy or pleasant. It may feel like abuse at times. And that is okay, because God knows how to redeem everything.