Jeremiah can teach us three things about the kind of forgiveness God offers Israel and Judah. And we can learn something about the nature of forgiveness itself, the forgiveness we’re called to practice. God’s forgiveness is relational, radical, and relentless.
It often takes confronting something head-on—lifting it up, if you will—to get a brutally honest look at the extent of the problem. And it’s a paradox that the path toward healing goes through suffering. The path toward transformation goes through the old ways… not around, over, or beneath, but through them.
In our dominant American culture, names tend to say more about our family ties or what our parents found pleasant-sounding around the time of our birth. But in other cultures, names say something about one’s character and destiny. This is especially the case in the cultures of the Bible.
God strikes a covenant here and promises to never again flood the earth. God promises to stay in relationship with humanity (that is still prone to violence and all sorts of evil, by the way) but God’s keeps God’s end of the bargain. And what’s our end of the covenant? To, like Noah, be vessels of peace in a world gone mad.
A stronger sense of community is how Jesus, whose Spirit is still alive among us, casts those “demons”‘ out. When people are seen, heard, valued, listened to—in a word, loved—that’s when those spirits that speak self-doubt, isolation, and hopelessness are cast out.
Looking back over our personal histories, how many of our lives have changed because of those moments when we followed the tug of the Spirit and took the riskier, less convenient, or more truthful route? It’s often in the opposite direction of having it our usual way that was Jesus said comes into full view: “The kingdom of God has come near.”
If we are to pursue the beloved community, in which love is the “law of the land,” or the law of our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, or even our own families and friend circles, we have to be grounded in our own belovedness.
As we begin the year 2018, how will we choose between the ways of Herod and the ways of God? How will we seek Jesus, where will we look for him, and how, when we encounter him, will we respond? As a guide, as our own “star from the east,” if you will, we have the Boston Declaration…
This, to the world-at-large, wasn’t big news at all. It was a small, insignificant thing, not even a blip on the radar to anybody who was somebody. Status quo, at best… and yet, the One who hung the stars was born of a woman and swaddled in cloth.
Maybe Mary is called “blessed” by all generations because she should be, because she reminds people of many cultures, times, and places of that fundamental fact that Jesus grew up to adulthood in order to drive home: God is love.