Curiously, in the Revised Common Lectionary this Old Testament passage is paired in the gospels with John 1:10-18, which includes the verse about how when the Word of God was made flesh, he came to this world “full of grace and truth.” As noted in the set of sermon starters on that passage, we rarely find that tenacious combination of grace AND truth on display in other people (or even in our own selves). In our “Either/Or” mentality we too often opt to be either gracious (and so we bend or elide the truth) or we tend to be truthful (even if telling the truth or standing up for the truth leads to behavior that is downright ungracious).
Similarly in Jeremiah 31: we have a hard time believing that the same prophet who had been hammering away in judgment against the people of Judah could also—and pretty much at the same time—point forward hopefully to a day of promised blessings even greater than what the people had known before. What may be even more striking is the idea that somehow the blessings of all that restoration would emerge from the midst of all the sorrows Jeremiah had been talking about all along. In fact, this lection stops one verse short of the well-known verse about Rachel weeping at Ramah for her lost children. Jeremiah does not deny for one moment the presence of weeping and sorrow in this world but somehow knows that if a word of restoration and hope is going to be spoken at all, it needs to be spoken into precisely those contexts of raw and jagged realities.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Grace AND Truth
Scott Hoezee on Sunday's Old Testament lesson, Jeremiah 31:7-14: