Proper 25 Year C 10/23/2022
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22; Psalm 84:1-6; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
The readings that are prescribed each Sunday…
Four readings each week…
The first lesson… usually from the Old Testament.
The second lesson from the New Testament.
And a reading from the Gospel.
And sometimes when you read through the lectionary…
Or hear them read on Sunday morning…
A particular verse jumps off the page.
It seems to be a word for the moment we are in.
Or the times that we are living in.
I read the lectionary usually on Tuesday each week…
Prayerfully considering what to preach on…
Seeing what stands out.
And this week something did jump out.
It was the last verse of our reading from the prophet Jeremiah.
Can any idols of the nations bring rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Is it not you, O Lord our God?
We set our hope on you,
for it is you who do all this.
The verse implies that we are not to put our hope in a nation.
Nor the idols of any people or religion.
Nor should we put our hope in nature.
Our hope is to be set on God.
For it is God who provides.
Now to fully grasp what is going on here we have to look at the context of Jeremiah.
His major book is name after him, Jeremiah.
He is also known as the author of the book of Lamentations.
Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet.
Because he cries out for his nation to repent.
Jeremiah lived during a time of political and national upheaval.
The threat of war was present.
There were also famines and other hardships.
And through these times Jeremiah called for the people to look toward God.
He lived in Judah which was known as the Southern Kingdom.
After King David, his son, Solomon reigned.
And after Solomon, Israel was divided into two nations.
The Northern Kingdom (known as Israel)…
and the Southern Kingdom (known as Judah).
The Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 BC.
Jeremiah was a prophet in the Southern Kingdom around 100 years later about 630 BC.
He prophesied until the Southern Kingdom Judah was destroyed in 586 BC by the Babylonians.
If you’re doing your math…
He was a prophet in Judah for over 40 years…
That’s a long time for an Old Testament prophet.
After Judah was destroyed, he was left for dead with the poorest of people who Babylon had no interest in.
Jeremiah prophesied about the coming destruction of Judah…
He called for the people of God to repent.
To repent from worshipping false religions.
To repent from not following the ways of God’s law.
To turn from their selfish goals and desires.
But the people of God refused.
They did not heed the warnings of Jeremiah.
They assumed God would never allow a foreign army to invade Jerusalem…
For the very fact that Jerusalem was the home of God’s temple.
The place where God, the one true God, Yahweh, dwelled.
But God is a God of justice too.
And destruction did come.
Jeremiah knew it was coming…
He preached repentance…
But he also proclaimed hope.
That God will never be faithless even when his people are faithless.
He remains faithful to his covenant.
And it was in the faithfulness of God Jeremiah proclaimed hope.
Even declaring that God will make a new covenant with His people…
A new covenant written on their hearts.
In all the tension that is set in the context of Jeremiah’s time…
All the warnings and calls for repentance that Jeremiah proclaimed…
The book of Jeremiah’s aim is to establish a theology of hope.
Scholar R. E. Clements writes concerning Jeremiah:
The prophetic dilemma was to find a place for hope in the face of the deep despair experienced by many in Israel….
…Jeremiah’s warnings, threats, and his desisting from intercession speak more constructively and creatively about the theological foundations of hope in the midst of suffering ….
Jeremiah is a tough read.
It is a book of much suffering.
But it also teaches hope.
The beauty of hope even when facing despair.
The New York Times bestselling book Adrift…
tells the story of a man who built a vessel that was to sail him through the whole of the Atlantic, sort of a large loop.
He hit bad weather and his vessel went down.
He existed on a raft for almost eighty days.
The thing that kept the man alive was hope.
His lowest days were the days when he could see no hope and he could not see the possibility of being rescued or making it to the islands
or coming into the shipping lanes and being found by one of those vast vessels on its way on the trade routes.
His hope kept him alive.
Someone once said:
We can live forty days without food,
eight days without water,
four minutes without air,
but only a few seconds without hope.
Our world struggles with hope.
You hear it…
People say: “I don’t know if we want to have children and bring them into this world.”
“If this political candidate gets elected what hope is there?”
And yet, as Christians we are to people of Hope.
Not so focused on the desires and dreams of our world…
But bringing the hope of the heavens to the living on earth.
As we pray: On earth as it is in heaven…
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes:
Hope… means… a continual looking forward to the eternal world….
It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.
If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next….
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”:
aim at earth and you will get neither.
Our Hope is in Christ…
Not this world…
Not what we have achieved…
Not our political positions…
Our hope is in Christ…
Our hope is in his life…
that God incarnate was born as a baby and lived life without sin.
Our hope is in his death…
the redeeming sacrifice that he made on the cross.
Our hope is in his resurrection…
that he broke the curse of sin and death rising from the grave.
Our hope is in his ascension…
that he is at the right hand of God… powerfully interceding for us.
This is one of the themes of our Gospel reading today too…
Jesus told this parable:
Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man.
The Pharisee posed and prayed like this:
‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man.
I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said,
‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled,
but all who humble themselves will be exalted.
The religious leader’s hope was founded in his works…
The sinner’s hope was found in God’s mercy…
He just cried out to God for mercy.
Our hope doesn’t come from what we have done…
It is found on Christ Jesus alone…
Our hope is built on the foundation of the cross of Jesus.
Our hope is built on the promises of God.
In this world things will not always go our way.
In this world things can go very badly.
It doesn’t take one’s imagination to see this.
Even the ones we trust the most… can hurt us.
Even the groups we most admire… can let us down.
But it is the person of Jesus Christ that our hope is found.
Which is why we look to him…
The author and finisher of our faith.
In these days…
In these coming weeks…
Especially in election season…
Where many promise the hope of tomorrow…
May our real hope be found in Jesus Christ.
For when we focus on him and His kingdom…
Everything else is placed in proper perspective.
May we be people of hope.
Sharing hope with others in this world.
 R.E. Clements, Jeremiah, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1988), 93.
 Clements, 93-94.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 118.
 The Message