Tag Archives: Exile

Surely the day is coming and now is

Reading
Jeremiah 31.27–34

 

The poet proposes a two-stage philosophy of history which is crucial for the full acknowledgment of exile and the full practice of hope in the face of exile. The negative has happened; the positive is only promised. The poem places us between the destruction already accomplished in 587 B.C.E. and the homecoming only promised but keenly anticipated. The oracle places us between a death already wrought and a resurrection only anticipated. — Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming

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The last couple of Sundays, we’ve been visiting the time of the Exile, which was around five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Do you remember?—the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were taken as exiles to Babylon, and there they stayed until Babylon itself was defeated. Then they were allowed to go ‘home’, though of course most people who had known Jerusalem as home were dead by now. 

It’s impossible to overemphasise the importance of the Exile—for Israel, for us as Christians, for the whole world. 

It was in the Exile that they began to write much of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament. They started to collect and put together the ancient stories of Israel were while they were in Exile. 

Scribes gathered together the old traditions to write the stories of the past, stories like the Flood, or the life of Moses. At the same time, prophets such as Jeremiah spoke new words into the current age.

In Babylon, the exiles had to work out a theology that responded to a place of defeat. The old idea had been that Yahweh was Israel’s God, and the other tribes and nations had their own gods. Yahweh was just the best of the bunch. Until he wasn’t, because the Babylonian gods had defeated him and shown they were more powerful. 

What could the exiles have done with this? I guess they could have decided the Babylonian gods with names like Bel, Nebo and Ishtar were the winners, so they should ditch Yahweh and pledge allegiance to them. 

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Lend a Hand—in a time of change (28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Reading
Jeremiah 29.1, 4–7

 

Sometimes, when I look at where I am in life, I wonder how I got here. I could never have predicted when I was a young boy growing up that one day I’d be a minister in a church that I’d never heard of, a church that didn’t exist yet. I couldn’t imagine that I’d be living in a place on the other side of the world, where my birthday was in winter and Christmas was in summer.

I couldn’t have dreamt that most of us would have phones even better than Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone. I never imagined that the smart phones we now have would have more powerful computers than those that guided the moon landing in 1968.

I couldn’t have dreamt that my daughter Erin would come to me when she was a little girl and ask my if I played with Blu-tac as a boy. When I told her that we didn’t have Blu-tac when I was a boy, she straightaway asked me if I played with twisty-ties. I had to tell her there were no twisty-ties when I was a kid either. I felt so old.

I couldn’t have dreamt that the pace of change would be so fast that you now hear twenty year-olds saying, Back in the day…

It’s not all light-hearted, though. I couldn’t have dreamt in my wildest nightmares that I’d be living in a time when 97% of climatologists tell us that climate change is real, and that human activity bears a great deal of the responsibility.

I couldn’t have dreamt I’d see the largest displacement of people from their homes in world history. That’s what we’re seeing in Syria right now as people flee or are driven from their homes. The World Health Organisation has called this the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis on earth. According to The Atlantic magazine:

Four million Syrians are internally displaced; with homes either destroyed or unsafe, they have moved to temporary housing within Syria’s borders. Another two million have now fled the country, pouring into neighbouring countries at a rate of nearly 6,000 every day.

Those of us who went to the Holy Land in April heard something about this while travelling through Jordan.

No one knew how true it was back in 1964 when Bob Dylan sang The times they are a-changing. But then, I doubt he did either.

We don’t all ‘do’ change well, so what do we do when the times are changing? Hide from it, embrace it, go with the flow?

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These bones can live! (Pentecost, Year B, 27 May 2012)

 

Readings
Ezekiel 37.1-14
Acts 2.1-21
Romans 8.22-27

 

Can these bones live?

It was ‘only’ a vision, but still Ezekiel felt uncomfortable. He was standing in a valley of dry old bones. And God was asking him a very silly question.

Mortal, can these bones live?

What to say? Standing in a pile of bones bleached white by the sun was not inspiring Ezekiel’s confidence. If he said No they’re dead and dusted, he could be accused of doubting God’s power. But if he said Yes Lord of course, he might have to say how on earth that could possibly happen.

So he takes the cautious path:

O Lord God, you know.

Ezekiel tosses the ball right back into God’s court. But God has been around the block a few times more than Ezekiel and the ball is tossed right back at him:

Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.

Ezekiel prophesies, and the bones become a mighty people. No one is more surprised than Ezekiel.

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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, 3 October 2010)

Singing forgiveness songs


Reading:
Psalm 137

The Bible pronounces ‘blessedness’, or happiness, upon a number of people. The Bible says,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…
Blessed are the meek…

Such wonderful and lofty thoughts! But the Bible also says:

O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!

Blessed are the meek…Blessed are they who dash your little ones against the rock.

That the Scriptures call ‘happy’ those who kill babies in such a barbaric way is a horrifying thought. And today we said, ‘The word of the Lord—Thanks be to God’. So we need to look at it carefully. What was happening there? How is it the word of the Lord to us?

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