Monday, 18 February 2008

Jeremiah: Liver of Life to the Full

On Being a Public Menace

I'm enjoying reading Jeremiah in my St James Daily Devotional Guide lectionary at the moment.

In his introduction to Jeremiah, the guide's compiler and writer, Patrick Henry Reardon writes:
Most of Jerusalem's citizens, suffering from chronic shallowness and terminal optimism, thought him something of an oddity and a nuisance, maybe even a public menace.
These days I, too, feel like a bit of an oddity and a nuisance in the Anglican church because of my conservative views. I'm not sure how menacing I appear.

In the last few days, as I've watched the ANiC parishes making their bids for freedom from the revisionist tide, am reminded of something a brother priest once said -- it must have been a dozen years ago (have we really been stuggling with this that long?) -- when we were talking about where we would draw the line beyond which we could not stay with the ACoC.

"Jeremiah didn't leave," he said.

Nor he did. I've never forgotten it. It's one of the reasons I am where I am.

One Hell of a Way to Get Your Blood Going in the Morning

Jeremiah has always connected with me for some reason. I have many of his verses copied out in my journal over the years. Back in 1997 I read Kathleen Norris’, The Cloister Walk (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996), in which she wrote some tasty things about Jeremiah. For example:
Listening to Jeremiah is one hell of a way to get your blood going in the morning; it puts caffeine to shame. 31
[A monk said] he was glad to be reading Jeremiah in the morning, and not at evening prayer, when there are more likely to be guests. “The monks can take it,” he said, “but most people have no idea what’s in the Bible, and they come unglued.” 34
A prophet’s task is to reveal the fault lines hidden beneath the comfortable surface of the worlds we invent for ourselves, the national myths as well as the little lies and delusions of control and security that get us through the day. And Jeremiah does this better than anyone. 34

Running with the Horses

And then there is the amazing (St) Eugene Peterson and his Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1983), about Jeremiah as a life-to-the-full liver.
There is a memorable passage concerning Jeremiah’s life when, worn down by the opposition and absorbed in self-pity, he was about to capitulate to just a premature death [the kind of death after which we go on living for many years]. He was ready to abandon his unique calling in God and settle for being a Jerusalem statistic. At that critical moment he heard the reprimand: “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan?”(Jer 12.5). ...
Life is difficult, Jeremiah. Are you going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are you going to retreat when you find that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are you going to run home the minute you find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping their feet warm than living at risk to the glory of God? Are you going to live cautiously or courageously? I called you to live at your best, to pursue righteousness, to sustain a drive toward excellence. It is easier, I know, to be neurotic. It is easier to be parasitic. It is easier to relax in the embracing arms of The Average. Easier, but not better. Easier, but not more significant. Easier, but not more fulfilling. I called you to a life of purpose far beyond what you think yourself capable of living and promised you adequate strength to fulfill your destiny. Now at the first sign of difficulty you are ready to quit. If you are fatigued by this run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will you do when the real race starts, the race with the swift and determined horses fo excellence? What is it you really want, Jeremiah, do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horses? 17-18
Peterson finishes his wonderful book by describing Jeremiah’s life as “a towering life terrifically lived.” What an epitaph. A lovely book.

A Purpose Far Beyond

My life doesn't feel particularly "towering" in these revisionist days. But I do feel that I am, indeed, called to a life of purpose far beyond what I think myself capable of living.

By the way, I never learned to ride real horses. They seem way too high for me. Sigh.