This text from the prophet Jeremiah is dated between 627 and 587 BCE. Jeremiah is passionately reminding the people that they have lost their focus and forgotten God. We are reminded of their time as slaves, and their journey to freedom led by God through the wilderness, and their arrival in this land of milk and honey. Even here, water is precious and much time and energy is spent on designing and digging deep cisterns to preserve the water, that comes from God in the rainy season, and if not saved, is only a memory when the rains stop. He uses the metaphor of water, essential to life and survival, to illustrate how one can become diverted and focused on worship of something other than the one true God. Worship the Giver, not what is given… indeed in our worship of the Giver, we share what is given for the benefit of all.
Jeremiah reminds the people — us — to focus on the question “Where is the Lord?” Where is the Lord who abhors injustice and oppression? Where is the Lord of light who leads refugees in the wilderness? Where is the one true God, and where does this One call us to be involved?
Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? They did not say, “Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit.
Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children. Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.
Hebrews 13: 1-8; 15-16
Hebrews 13 can be heard as a basic “how to” for Christian living. This letter comes from the early days of the church, when followers of Jesus were known as followers of The Way… and The Way was dangerous, and demanding, and challenging, and immensely rewarding. The Way was (and still is) grounded in love — Holy Love — selfless love — surprising love — all-inclusive and unconditional love.
The description of life lived in a community whose existence is guided and based on this kind of love reminds us that although the love is unconditional, the way of living in relationship has a very definite set of guidelines, so when the love is unconditional the way of living in community has a definite pattern of conditions that create harmony and mutual delight. No one is left out. All are included.
As we listen to this outline or pattern for Christ-centred living, let us think of our own relationships — first with God, then with one another, and then including the strangers who come to live among us…
Hebrews 13: 1-8; 15-16
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [God] has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess [the holy] name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.