Are you ever curious about the scripture texts that become the foundation for the sermons that Pastor Linda preaches? Every Sunday morning, at 9:00 a.m. a few Central folk gather together to study the Bible together, specifically focusing on the text from which Pastor Linda will be preaching that day. Everyone is welcome to join us. We are adding another opportunity to reflect on those texts, each week, online. Three or four different Central members will contribute a short reflection on an upcoming sermon text. You are invited to read the text and their reflections and then add your own voice to the conversation, if you wish. The conversation will assist Pastor Linda in her sermon preparation and may help all of us to hear the Spirit speaking more clearly though the text and the preacher’s sermon. You may comment on the scripture reading or reply to an existing comment.

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 29, 2019: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 (NRSV)

32 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.

6 Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.

9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

 

Scott Nickel

Blind Faith is the name of a short-lived rock supergroup formed by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood about 50 years ago. As I read and studied this scripture from Jeremiah 32, I kept thinking about the meaning of the term and how it applies to the story. 

Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonian army, and the prophet Jeremiah had foretold the city’s downfall. As a result, King Zedekiah had imprisoned him. Although the fulfillment of the prophecy was underway, he was unhappy with Jeremiah for sharing this message of defeat, including that the king himself would be captured.

Amid all this tumult, God again speaks to Jeremiah, telling him that his cousin Hanamel will come with a business proposition. Hanamel wants to sell him a family field in their hometown just outside Jerusalem. Since God has told him to, Jeremiah buys it, although the field is in an area already controlled by the Babylonian army.

Talk about your blind faith! Jeremiah didn’t ask why or even request some time to think about it. He simply counted out the pieces of silver and had the ownership papers drawn up. And all for a plot of land that was essentially worthless because it was occupied by an invading army!

Jeremiah was a prophet, so his faith was undoubtedly very strong. But I still find myself amazed by how much we can learn from him in this passage. Jeremiah took a leap, and it wasn’t something that he could rationalize with his human brain. To those around him he must have appeared a bit crazy purchasing this property that he would likely never be able to use.

In this sense Jeremiah exhibited blind faith. Isn’t this the kind of faith God calls us to have? If it isn’t blind, is it really faith at all? How many of us are confident that we can discern the will of God (or that we should presume to be able to)? And if we can, who among us can truly react blindly, without human justification or rationalization?

In the end, Jeremiah’s purchase (and ultimately his faith) was God’s sign that the lands of Jerusalem would one day be restored. So in the midst of war and turmoil, they offered true hope. This is a story of blind faith leading to hope and hope leading to redemption. May it inspire us all to refine our own faith.

Rick Appel 

Growing up in a Disciples family, it gradually became apparent to me that the Bible need not be taken literally. Matter of fact, sometimes, it made no rational sense at all if it was taken literally. Metaphor, poetry, and advice pretty much summed up the Bible for me. Some friends, though, actually found parts of the Bible abhorrent, since to them the Bible consisted mostly of marvelous fairy tales and mythical bloody conquests.

I still hold to the metaphor/poetry approach, but more recent reading of archeological findings suggests that many of those bloody conquests were not so mythical.

Though the Bible cannot be seen as a book of history, archeology being done throughout the Middle East seems to verify, at least in broad outline, some actual historical events. For example, archeologist Shimon Gibson recounts the discovery of an "ashy layer" with arrowheads and jewelry dated from approximately 587/586 BC on Mount Zion. This would track with Nebuchadrezzar 's conquest of Jerusalem at that time. Gibson's Newsweek article is an interesting summary of the research done there, which he co-directed. I recommend it: https://www.newsweek.com/ancient-babylon-destruction-jerusalem-unearthed-1454029

Looking at today's text, Jeremiah certainly is telling "truth to power" in predicting that his king Zedekiah will be defeated and humiliated by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. With statements like that, Jeremiah found it hard to stay out of jail. The story rings true in our experience as humans.

Turns out that at least some parts of the Bible's "mythology" could be true as well.

[Rick Appel reports that “I am a choir member and Elder, and I was most fortunate to have had a happy, ever-so slightly scholarly childhood.”]