The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/22/2015)

Lessons:Jeremiah 31:31-34 Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16 Hebrews 5:5-10 St. John 12:20-33

Prayer of the Day: O God, with steadfast love you draw us to yourself, and in mercy you receive our prayers. Strengthen us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, that through life and death we may live in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

31:31-34 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Purpose

Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The Prophet Jeremiah is widely known as “The Weeping Prophet.” Serving God from approximately 626 to 586 b.c., his words for the people of Judah were often words of judgment and doom. During his lifetime great nations like Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia were vying for control of the region. Babylonia eventually gained the upper hand, and Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem on two separate occasions, eventually carrying off its leading citizens. Jeremiah himself fled the Babylonian armies (at the age of 70) and ended up dying in exile in Egypt.

Jeremiah may primarily have been a prophet of doom, but most Biblical scholars consider chapters 30-33 of the book named after him as a distinct section, and it has been referred to as “The Book of Consolation.” The future restoration of Israel is the primary theme of this section. Jeremiah interprets their destruction at the hand of the Babylonians as a sign of God’s judgment, but promises the people that God has restoration in store for them and their nation.

This week’s text is a portion of this section. Jeremiah promises his readers that in this new day, God will enter into a new covenant (or promise) with them. When the day comes, they will no longer have to read the Torah to know what God wants from them, but the law will be written on their hearts. They will know from the very core of their being that God loves them and calls them to faithfulness.

The earliest followers of Jesus turned to these words as they sought to understand Jesus’ call for them to live as his disciples. They felt called to continue living in ways that were shaped by God’s word from the Hebrew Bible, and found that Jeremiah’s words here encouraged them to let their faith in Christ fill their hearts and direct their living, so that everything they did and everything they said became a testimony to the forgiveness they had received, and the lives they were called to live.

This week, at Saint Peter, we are reflecting on our purpose as God’s people. The words from Jeremiah are helpful in doing so, and in fact they correlate with our stated purpose as a congregation. We are to live as forgiven children of God (invited into God’s love, just as we are), and we are to live as though God’s word has been written on our hearts (sent into God’s world, to be a reflection of Christ’s love).

Our hope is that this year’s season of Lent has prepared each of us to live more fully into this purpose. May we be strengthened, each day, by the forgiveness and new life that is our. And may we become signs of God’s presence in this world; instruments of grace and truth.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why was Jeremiah so distraught about his nation and its leaders?
  2. How did the people of ancient Israel interpret the events that lead to their exile?
  3. As he spoke to the people in exile, what was Jeremiah’s message of hope?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I think of when I consider my purpose as a child of God?
  2. How are Jeremiah’s words about forgiveness and God’s word helpful to me?
  3. What does it mean for me to think of “my God” as “Jeremiah’s God?”