September 25, 2016
Luke 16:19-31
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16


The Apex of Hope
Proper 21 | OT 26 | Pentecost 19


Click here for the full installment.



Chrisopher Keating
In the past several weeks’ lectionary passages, the prophet Jeremiah has painted a bleak picture of what’s in store for the Israelites -- bluntly foretelling that they will be overrun by the Babylonians and sent into a long period of exile. Yet in the face of this utter desolation, Jeremiah tells them that the word of the Lord is to buy land (soon to be essentially worthless) and bury the deeds in clay jars (the equivalent at the time of safe-deposit boxes). As team member Chris Keating points out in the next installment of The Immediate Word, such thinking seems like complete lunacy -- akin to encouraging investing in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

But what Jeremiah and the psalmist are really communicating in this week’s texts, Chris notes, is a deep truth: namely, that no matter how bad the circumstances (and they may be very, very traumatic), there is always abundant reason for hope... even in the face of what seems like a black hole of misery. That’s because God promises to always be with us and to protect us -- even when a situation is so dire that many people wonder if God has abandoned them. Jeremiah tells us that the Lord will eventually redeem the Israelites’ land, while the psalmist says that we should not fear “the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.” It’s not that the Lord prevents us from these “times of trial.” For example, God doesn’t save the Israelites from the coming years of suffering and exile. Rather, Chris reminds us, through his presence (and in his kairos time) God is able to transform places of horror into places of hope. Here’s a preview:

The Apex of Hope
by Chris Keating
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

Someone apparently forgot to tell Jeremiah that the primary rule of thumb for conducting real estate deals is location, location, location.

The prophet has minced no words about what is about to happen to Jerusalem. He’s reminded the people that God is about send a blistering, devastating wind upon the city. He’s told them disaster is on its way. But now, even as the king of Babylon has surrounded the town and Jeremiah is sequestered in prison, he decides it’s time to go house hunting.

Could someone cue up an episode of The Property Brothersfor him?

It’s an unlikely act -- a bit like purchasing a shopping center in Aleppo. If someone asks “What’s Aleppo?” tell them that the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs called it “the apex of horror.” Once Syria’s highly commercialized business hub, the city -- now under siege and cut off from basic supplies -- has largely been reduced to rubble. Don’t expect a run on real estate there any time soon.

Yet even in a place of absolute devastation, hope has managed to crawl out of a bunker, if only briefly. A fragile ceasefire brought a modicum of relief to Aleppo’s residents last week. It provided a chance for children to play outside, and gave parents a chance to take shallow, uneasy breaths of hope.

Headlines remind us that hope springs up in unlikely places: an abducted woman takes a chance and calls police, residents of an embattled neighborhood in Chicago light candles for peace, parents in Aleppo let their kids play outside.

It doesn’t make sense. It makes no sense for the residents of Aleppo to hold much hope, any more than it makes sense for Jeremiah to be purchasing fields and securing deeds for future generations. None of this makes sense -- until you begin to recall that God often settles near the apex of horror so that it can be transformed into the apex of hope.

Or, as the psalmist reminds us, “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge, and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.’ ”

Click here for the full installment.


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