Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Our Old Testament lesson is about a real estate deal.
You might well wonder
            why Jeremiah’s buying a plot of ground
                        is important enough to be in the Bible.

Well the point depends on the context.
For years and years, the Kingdom of Judah
            had been doing well enough economically,
                        but not so well morally.
They had not treated the poor kindly
            and they had not been faithful to God.
So, for decades, Jeremiah kept prophesying doom and judgment.
When Babylon invaded Judah, Jeremiah said, “Give up.     
            Babylon is here as an agent of God’s judgment.
            So just give up.”

You can imagine how that went over
            with the Judean Department of Homeland Security.
Jeremiah found himself behind bars charged with treason,
            of which he was conspicuously guilty.
Things weren’t looking good for Jeremiah’s personal life.
Things were looking even worse for Judah.
The Babylonian army had occupied the whole countryside
            and had now laid siege to Jerusalem itself.
It was only a matter of time – and not much time –
            until the city would be overrun, the temple sacked,
            and the people carried away in slavery to a far off land.

Jeremiah had been predicting this all his life.
“Judah,” he said, “you are going down.”
Now it was happening.
Judah was going down.
Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah,
            and said unto him.
“Jeremiah, buy land. Buy agricultural real estate in Judah.”
It’s pretty obvious why there was land for sale.
People wanted to liquidate their assets and skip out to Egypt.
But what kind of a fool would want to buy Judean real estate
            with the Babylonian army at the gates?

Nonetheless, that’s what God told Jeremiah to do,
            so that’s what Jeremiah did.
Jeremiah, the lifelong prophet of doom and gloom,
            now at the moment when his dire predictions were coming to pass,      
            invested in the future of his country.
He bought land.

What was he thinking?
Was Jeremiah trusting in the mercy of the Babylonians?
They committed atrocities against the Jews
            that would have made Saddam Hussein weep for pity.
Was he relying on Egypt, the only other world power
that could possibly have resisted Babylonian might?
 Jeremiah despised the Egyptians and any pro-Egypt factions in Judah.
Egypt was being driven back to its own borders
and would soon be fighting for its own life.

Where did Jeremiah expect help to come from?
Who was going to send the cavalry?
40 years later it came from Cyrus, King of the Persian Empire.
But at the time Jeremiah bought the land,
            Cyrus was five years old and the Persian Empire did not yet exist.

So whom was Jeremiah counting on to justify
            his real estate investment?
God. Jeremiah, the lifelong prophet of doom and gloom,
            trusted God to turn disaster into joy.

So what might we learn
from Jeremiah’s counter-intuitive investment strategy?
Our story tells us something about God
            and something about life.
Sometimes, when things are going well,
            we get a bit full of ourselves.
We think, “Look at us. We got it going.”
We think we’ve done all this
            and we trust in our own strength
            to hold on to what we’ve got.

But God keeps saying, “Don’t get too high and mighty.
            What goes up must come down.”
Our strongest fortress in this transitory life is a house of cards.
When we are feeling strong,
            that’s when we hear God’s voice reminding us to
            “do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.”

But then when things get hard, when fortune turns against us,
when we see nothing but clouds on the horizon,
            when everything we cherish is falling apart,
            that’s when we hear God say,
“Rejoice. I reverse the ways of the world.
I overturn the judgments of the world.
In my grace, whatever goes down must come up.
Fear not for I have redeemed you.”

These are hard times at St. Timothy’s – uncertain times.
That’s why your wardens asked me to come
            and bring you some word from the Lord.
By his grace, I found it right here in the Bible.
When we feel like the Babylonians are at the gate,
            that’s when the Lord invites us to trust in his grace.

Jeremiah also gave us this word from the Lord,
            “I know the plans I have for you,
            plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
            plans to give you hope and a future.”//

I don’t know how Mike’s health is going to go.
But I know whatever befalls, he will flourish in God’s hands.
I don’t know what decisions you’ll make or how your part of God’s mission
            will unfold in the coming years.
But I am confident that God will see you through.

Keep your hearts engaged in the Christ’s Mission.
That’s what it means to buy real estate in the Kingdom.
Keep your hearts engaged in the Mission
            and trust in the immeasurable mercy and providence of God.

We can’t see what form that mercy will take
            anymore than Jeremiah could have foreseen
            that a little boy a thousand miles away in Persia,
            a child worshiper of a foreign God called Ahura Mazda
                        would return the Jews to their homeland.
We can’t see what form God’s mercy will take.
But we trust it anyway.
That’s why they call it faith.