God Is Still Speaking, Are You Listening?

Today's lectionary comes to us from Jeremiah 32:36-38.  Here's the passage that spoke to me today:
36 “You are saying about this city, ‘By the sword, famine and plague it will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon’; but this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. 38 They will be my people, and I will be their God.
Jeremiah was a Jewish prophet in the late 6th century BCE. He prophesied prior to, during and after the Babylonian conquest and destruction of Jerusalem.

In keeping with the Hebrew prophetic tradition within which he lived and ministered, Jeremiah speaks to the people with the authority of someone who is hearing a "word from the Lord."

In other words, Jeremiah experiences God so deeply and intimately, that he speaks as if it were God speaking directly to the people.

The Babylonians are on the way to Jerusalem, leaving a path of destruction in their wake.  There is fear, and dread as the specter of the king of Babylon hovers over the city.

"You are saying about this city..." Jeremiah begins, and then goes into a description of the calamity about to befall Jerusalem, which interestingly includes famine and plague along with violence.

And then Jeremiah shifts as he begins to speak God's words in response.  "...but this is what the Lord God of Israel says...."  

 I love this shift.  "You say..."  to "...but this is what the Lord says."  

Jeremiah then goes on to share a vision of the soon-to-be exiled people being returned by God to their homeland, who promises to restore the city, and allow them to live in safety.

"You say..."  

Right now the news might seem grim.  Experts are telling us that things are going to get worse before they get better.  They tell us that up to 250,000 people might die from the virus that hangs over us like a specter.

It's easy to for us to fall into despair, doubt and disbelief.  It's easy for us to begin spiraling into negativity.  We begin to tell ourselves that it's going to be okay tomorrow, and then tomorrow gets here and the news is worse than yesterday.

"You say..."  

"... but this is what the Lord says." 

Even in the middle of our fear and dread, the word of God still comes to us because God is still speaking, still working, still making God's presence known to us and to the world around us.

God speaks in the heroic efforts of those who risk their lives to fight this dread pandemic.  God speaks in the countless connections that are being made between friends and neighbors, loved ones and co-workers who reach out to one another by virtual means, but with a heartfelt purpose.

God speaks in the ways that the skies have cleared over hundreds of cities in China after decades of being darkened.

God speaks in the ways that old enmities and strife between nations have been put aside in beautiful moments of cooperation, unity and shared concern for the safety of the vulnerable.

God speaks through the hands and hearts of those who give of themselves and what they have to create safety masks, design new ventilators, forgive debt, practice social distancing, check on their neighbors, deliver food, and do everything they can to be as near as they can to those who need them.

God speaks in the many moments where the Church has had to find new ways to be the Church, where those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus are discovering that the Church has left the building, but it's still the Church.

Come on!  Somebody up in here say "Amen!"

God is still speaking, beloved.  Listen carefully to what God is saying.  Know that the words are full of light and life, and will most certainly lead us to hope and healing... together.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.


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