Jeremiah’s Complaint

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 — Tuesday in Holy Week (Year One)

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 956)

Psalms 6, 12 (morning) 94 (evening)

Jeremiah 15:10-21

Philippians 3:15-21

John 12:20-26

Jeremiah speaks with deep pathos. His life’s calling has been to speak God’s word of judgment and impending doom to a community that doesn’t want to hear bad news. His mission has been costly to him. We hear his hurt and bitterness today.

“Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! …All of them curse me. I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.”

Alienated and resented, Jeremiah has borne the weight of resentment. That’s what happens to whistleblowers and to those who reveal unpopular and uncomfortable truths. Dry and brittle, Jeremiah speaks to God of his discontent, accusing God with these honest words, “Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.”

Maybe we gasp when we read those words. Did he really say that? Can he say that? Can he tell God that God is like a deceitful brook who fails us? Can he say that and live?

Yes he can. God does not strike him down. God does not banish him from the divine presence. But God also does not relent. The mission stands. “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. …And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze. …I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked.”

Jeremiah has laid his complaint before God. Jeremiah speaks from the depths of his heart. God hears and remains with him. Even so, there is no avoiding the hard task before him. Yet God will be with him.

No wonder our lectionary invites us to walk with Jeremiah during Holy Week when we walk with Jesus along the way of the cross. The path of truth cannot be bypassed. We have to walk the road we are given. Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. …Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

Not many of us are called to the kind of witness that Jeremiah and Jesus gave. But we can be attentive to the prophets among us. We can listen to those who tell us what we don’t want to hear. We can hear with respect the accusations of those who make unpopular and uncomfortable charges against us and against our lifestyles. We can heed the word of the prophets and change our behavior.

Whenever we are given a portion of the truth to shoulder, a piece of the cross to bear, we can bear it with courage. And if we need to, we can speak to God honestly about our deepest disappointments, including our disappointment in God. God may not back off; but God will be with us.

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