In the Office: The Unwanted Word of the Lord

The lesson from the Hebrew scriptures in today’s Daily Office is somewhat unique. Although it comes from the Book of Jeremiah, which is comprised primarily of prophetic oracles in poetic form, this reading is primarily narrative that tells a compact and challenging story.

The LORD comes to Jeremiah and tells him to proclaim a message of judgment to the people of Judah. “Perhaps they will listen,” the LORD says, “and turn from their evil ways.” (26:3) So Jeremiah shares the message that the LORD has given to him; and as soon as he has finished speaking, the priests and prophets and people seize him and say, “You must die! Why do you prophesy in the LORD’s name that this house will be desolate and deserted?” (26:8-9)

Are we at all surprised that people would be unwilling to accept a “word of the LORD” that calls into question their actions and priorities? In our own day, science has confirmed the existence of a “perspective bias” that makes us unwilling (or unable) to consider seriously the information and opinions that contradict our currently held views. As a result, you have people on the political left who dismiss the word of the LORD when it comes to the sanctity of human life and the dangers of a laissez-faire approach to sexuality. And in the same way, you have people on the political right who refuse to listen to the word of the LORD when it comes to our responsibility to care for Creation or to God’s anger at economic arrangements that privilege the rich and deprive the poor. And somewhere in the mix, you’ve got lonely prophets who respond as Jeremiah did:

“As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” (26:14-15)

The real challenge, of course, is that every single one of us is prone to ignore the word of the LORD that we most need to hear. Several years ago, I read a book by preacher and professor Tony Campolo whose title says it all: We Have Met the Enemy, and They Are Partly Right.

What “word of the LORD” have I been avoiding lately? And what “word” has been proclaimed to you, but has been unwanted and thus ignored?

May the LORD give us courage to hear His word, even when it judges us. And may He grant us grace to turn from our darkness and walk in His light.

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