9/25/2016: Stuff Jeremiah Bought

Jeremiah 32:1-15 Jerusalem is under attack, and God asks Jeremiah to buy a field. Which makes no sense.  Why would you buy land when that land is about to be taken? — This isn’t the first time that God told Jeremiah to buy something.  In Jeremiah 13 the prophet is instructed to buy a loin cloth.  He’s to wear it for a while without washing it and then go hide it in a rock.  After another while he’s supposed to pull it back out again. Here in the 21st century we don’t talk much about loincloths.  So let’s say this is like my backpacking shirt.  I typically wear it all five days – no washing – on our overnight hiking trips.  I bet you can guess how sweat-drenched and stink-infused it is after 40 miles of hiking.  Then, what if I took it and put it in a ziplock bag.  Six months later I open the bag up… Can’t you just see the cloud of green rottenness that would float up out of that bag. This is what Jeremiah does with the loin cloth; this is the object lesson for God’s people, who have stubbornly turned away from God.  “This is what you’re like,” God says to them.  “You’re rank.  You’re gross.  Your stubbornness has spoiled you.” So when God tells Jeremiah to buy a field, it’s not a real estate investment – it’s for that same kind of symbolic purpose. — Jeremiah buys something again in Jeremiah 19:  a pot.  He’s to gather all the elders and religious leaders around and then smash the pot to pieces. I...

9/18/2016: Paper vs. Clay

Jeremiah 18:1-12 “So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot” (Jeremiah 18:3-4, The Message). Not being a potter myself, this analogy doesn’t feel natural to me. When I put my little bit of artistic ability to use, I draw.  I take a piece of paper and use black ink to make something come out of it.  Like Mickey Mouse, for example.  Disney is just in the air when you grow up in Florida, so I’ve used circles to draw Mickey’s smiling facing hundreds of times. But even with all that practice, sometimes I mess up.  I shudder and my hand jerks, and there’s a line where no line should be. Sometimes this is fixable – maybe I can use the line to change Mickey into Minnie… But sometimes I make an irreparable mistake.  I sneeze at a crucial moment, and the wayward line is just too bad. When a drawing reaches this point there’s nothing to do but tear it off and start over with a fresh piece of paper. Because this is my experience as an artist, it’s tempting to think that this is how God works in our lives.  God creates something out of us, and if we mess up a little – well, God can work with that.  But if we go too far – commit some heinous sin –...

9/11/2016 Sermon: Two Things

Jeremiah 2:4-13 It’s gloom and doom.  It’s like Eeyore wrote a book of the Bible.  It’s a big, fat bummer. Jeremiah, that is. We’re reading through the book of Jeremiah this month at Andrews UMC, so each day I’m putting two or three chapters of this important book of the Bible under my belt.  And I’m glad we’re reading it – it is, after all, the second largest book of the Bible.  It includes some great stuff like God knowing Jeremiah in his mother’s womb (last week’s Scripture) and God molding us like clay (next week’s Scripture).  But in between those lovely images is a lot of… judgment.  As an example, here’s some of my daily devotional reading while writing this sermon: Then the LORD said to me:  Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people.  Send them out of my sight, and let them go!  And when they say to you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: Those destined for pestilence, to pestilence, and those destined for the sword, to the sword; those destined for famine, to famine; and those destined for captivity, to captivity (Jeremiah 15:1-2). Then it goes on to destroying and killing and dogs dragging away the carcasses… you know, just the kind of warm, fuzzy stuff you want to read right before bed. It’s a bummer, I’m telling you. But it’s a justified bummer.  Jeremiah’s ministry lasted from 627 to 587 BC.  During this time God’s people were disobedient to the point of divine exasperation.  So God let them...

9/4/2016 Sermon: Small but Big

Jeremiah 1:4-10 In 1977 the galaxy as we know it was forever changed when the first Star Wars movie hit the theaters. If you’re a nerd like me, you might have raised an eyebrow at the previous statement.  It’s not wrong, but there’s a sense in which it is kind of wrong.  The Star Wars movie that premiered in 1977 was certainly the first to be produced, but it was not the first episode.  It was Episode 4:  A New Hope. If you’re even nerdier than I am you’re now raising an eyebrow, because there’s even more to the story.  But I didn’t know that until recently, because I wasn’t born until 1978.  I didn’t see the first Star Wars during its May 1977 release.  I never saw the original movie posters: I didn’t see, first-hand, that the title listed on them isn’t Episode 4 at all. It’s just… Star Wars. My fellow nerds have debated the reason behind this.  Some say that Star Wars creator George Lucas always intended for a 9-part series but felt sure that the original film would flop at the box office and kill the deal.  Maybe so.  What’s clear is that when the next film in the series came out in 1980, it changed things.  It was titled Episode V, and at that point the opening credits of the 1977 film were altered to label it Episode IV.  If you’ve wondered why Star Wars is so captivating – why it drives people like me to know trivia like this – then this is part of your answer.  George Lucas (at some point) recognized...