In a times of online everything, the art of staying in relationships through times of conflict and disagreement grows harder and harder it seems. Misunderstandings about just about anything can erupt easily. Break-up over text messages are a reality. When we are dissatisfied with a person, we can ”de-friend” our Facebook friends, not return phone calls, and ignore messages, as if relationships were that disposable.
With all of this being true, it’s easy then to begin to think that God has similar patterns of relationships too. That God could like us one day and hate us the next. Or, God could stonewall us if we start getting too annoying. Or, that God could grow tired of us and disown us eventually.
This past Sunday, we continued our series on the character of God taking our cues from the lectionary readings from Jeremiah. I have my friend, Abby of Broadneck Baptist for the inspiration for the series. I was listening to her talk about preaching through the prophet books over the summer and it struck a chord in me as something I thought we as a church should explore together.
If you are like me, often when you read the prophetic texts, they seem quite removed from our modern experience and harsh. ”How could God say those things?” “How can I reconcile this God I read here with the gospel of Jesus?”
But what I found as I stayed in Jeremiah for several week is some obscure and difficult passages became to me beautiful stories of a God who loves us so much that there’s nothing God won’t do to stay in relationship with us. God loves us so much to abide with us in good times and bad, to mourn with us when our hearts are sad and to keep giving us signs of a hopeful future.
Here’s a portion of the God Who Invests sermon about Jeremiah 32. It’s the crazy story of Jeremiah being asked by God to buy a plot of land with exile on the way soon. It was a story about Jeremiah preaching God’s faithfulness with his actions. If you want to hear the rest, check out our website tomorrow for the audio version.
. . . . The object lesson can be summed up by the Message’s paraphrase of verse 15 reads like this, “The God of Israel says, ‘Life is going to return to normal. Homes and field and vineyards are again going to be bought in this country.’” It’s a parable come to life.
Yet, while shocking, a message of unbelievable hope emerges. In spite of the judgment and the exile that the people would still and soon endure (all the chapters between last week’s lection and today’s), the purchase of this land was God saying loud and clear to the people: “I love you so much. I will never let my investment in you wane. Your future is too bright for that.” And such a statement had nothing to do with whether or not Israel deserved the attention. . . . .
And, while the cultural norm IS about applauding the gifted, the self-motivated, and the hard-working, this is not what God’s investment policy is about. It’s not what hope is about.
We proclaim a God today who made investments in a nation and in a people, like us, who don’t deserve it. We worship a God today who doesn’t ask us to come prepare to talk to him about the qualifications on our resume.
We edify a God today who doesn’t pick out only the best, the brightest and the best for blessing. We proclaim a God who shows us through tangible acts of love that we are chosen, yes, every one of us. Even in spite of all of the things that we can do in our life to mess things up, this is one thing that we cannot mess up, says the Lord. God’s investment portfolio is always about us and the forecast is always looking up.
Theologian Dennis Bratcher puts it like this, “This is really the heart of Jeremiah’s message. He knew that someday people would need to know that God had been with them creating a future for them even in the darkest hour when they themselves saw no need for it.”
Thus, the buying the land was so important not because it was earned, claimed as reward or given as a merit scholarship to save for later. Rather, it was hope saying, “I’ve been investing in your future all along. Trust God to see things through.”
Yet, if you are like me, such an audacious hope is hard to believe. We are way too controlling for all that trust business. It’s hard to wrap our minds around the fact that God would love us that much. It’s hard to believe that such love and faithfulness poured out for us not just on our finest days, but on our darkest, especially our darkest too. It’s hard to imagine that when all our accolades are stripped away God would still love us the same as we think Gods with them.
Maybe then, this is why we need symbols of hope so badly. We need something to hold on to remember, like Jeremiah gave the children of Israel, to know that God sees the big picture and is making a way for better days. We need symbols that others might call strange, but remind us that God’s investment in us is not something we could ever control or mange.. . .
What good news of God’s investment this is for our today!