Reading Jeremiah, By Elizabeth Stites

Right now we are reading the book of Jeremiah, and as I mentioned before, I am reading the commentary on it. One of the leitmotifs is the sundering of our relationship with God, predominantly by failing in our relationships with each other. It got me to thinking about my friends, about how most, if not all, of us meet before elementary school. The fact that they still talk to me is amazing, I mean, we went through puberty together, and I suppose if that doesn’t destroy your friendship then it binds you for life. But still, I know I can be annoying, lets face it there are days when I have wanted to climb out of my own  skin to get away from me, so for them to stick around is a thing. We have fought each other, fought beside each other, fought each other for each other, we have yelled at each other for stupid decisions, mourned with one another, celebrated and waited with one another, we have patched each other up, emotionally and sometimes physically, we have challenged each other in life and reminded each other that there is someone better in love, most of us have known each other for almost a quarter of a century now and I can’t imagine my life without these people. I am as bound to them as I am to my brother (although he is also a part of this group). I can’t imagine anything they could do that would make me angry enough to truly sever my relationship with one of them, much less all of them. So when I read the book of Jeremiah, I struggle with how angry God is, how hurt and damaged the relationship must be for God to condemn his people that way. I mean, I’m humanand I can’t imagine ever giving up on, much less actively reigning down destruction upon these people I love. I can’t imagine how hurtGod must be witnessing the covenant slowly disintegrating, watching the slow, inexorable creation of a society that has forgotten the subtle strength of kindness, the healing of forgiveness, and the freedom in submission to the will of God.
As we are reading Jeremiah we are also reading Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament by Ellen F. Davis, a book about living with the Psalms. The juxtaposition is …interesting. As a whole, the book of Psalms has to be my favorite book of the bible. It reminds us that anger, joy, hope, sadness and even mundane, every day annoyances are to be offered up to God, there is a form to be prayed (how very Presbyterian…). There is a quote in Getting Involved with God book about how God answers our prayers in unexpected ways, prayers for healing can be transformed in to the healing of fear; Ellen Davis writes “The answer may be given in a way that is not even perceptible to someone looking at the situation from the outside”. Humans it seems have a built in sense of justice ‘It’s not fair’ is inherent to our way of thinking, and it doesn’t seem fair that when we try to do what we are supposed to, to honor that covenant relationship that physical healing doesn’t happen. Yet often in the Psalms there doesn’t seem to be an external resolution to the issue at hand, yet the end of the Psalm always ends in praise, in fact Psalm 30 says “You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”
Both the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Psalms are difficult to read, in the one God is angry, in the other, the Psalmist asks God to curse people. Yet in the end there is a form of grace and there is praise; it reminds me of the first question of the Westminster Catechism “What is the greater end of man? The greater end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”.
In Getting Involved With God Ellen Davis writes “The ancient rabbis said of scripture ‘Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it’”. Perhaps my difficulty in reconciling both Books is that I haven’t turned it enough, how have you turned it?
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