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Jeremiah 47Coping With the Philistines

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Capture of the Ark by the Philistines

Jeremiah’s title is Prophet of the Nations and in chapters 46 to 51 we read the Oracles to the Nations.  In this portion of his prophecy, Jeremiah describes the coming judgment of Yahweh.  “Why Philistia is included at all in the list of enemies is not clear . . . What is certain is that the attack ultimately comes from warrior YHWH . . . The poem provides no clear reason for the attack, but it ends with “the song of the sword”.  In a poignant personification of YHWH’s weapon, an unidentified speaker begs the sword to be still but recognizes that the sword is unable to countermand YHWH’s plans for it”.  (Barton 523)

This commentary points out in the previous page that today we have an aversion to “the theological themes of vengeance, anger and retribution” (522); yet these images are meant to call Israel back to Yahweh, and to lay out a kind of case here in which God’s justice is seen for what it is. . . the natural playing out of the covenant conditions.

A few weeks ago we looked at Ezekiel’s song of the harvesting sword which held out a similar promise to the faithful: God’s justice is swift, God’s love is healing.   Today the object of this “Justice Sword” is the Philistines, a tribe of people whose history is intertwined with that of the Hebrew tribes.  More can be read about them at: http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/P/PHILISTINES/   Several weeks ago we read about the Philistines’ dilemma with the Ark of the Covenant which they had taken from the Jewish people (1 Samuel 6).  They believed that once they had physical control of this “magic” box that they could manipulate God and have him wait on them.  This, they found out, is not how God operates, and so they looked for a quick and clever way to return the Ark – the presence of God whom they did not understand.

Philistines Entering the Levant

Today we look at the prophecy Jeremiah pronounces for this Philistine people . . . and it is bleak.  When we take in all that is predicted, we realize that there is only one way to interact with Philistines: We must call on God alone for guidance and protection, and as New Testament people we will want to intercede for the Philistines in our own lives.  We will want to consider how the old covenant with Moses as mediator is fulfilled and superseded by the new covenant with Christ, the new mediator.  And so we will want to ask Christ to redeem and heal the modern Philistines . . . and the many faithful that they injure.  As we consider the implications of all of this for us today, let us pray . . .

Just and Merciful God, You know that we live side by side with those who do not revere you, and with those who believe they revere you when they do not.  Help us to step away from our anxieties and fears when we come up against the Philistines in our lives.  Teach us to take our large and small problems to you, and to trust in you alone to find the best solutions.  Encourage us as we look for ways to be faithful to you.  Help us to persevere as we place all hope in you alone.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, the New Mediator of your eternal covenant with the faithful.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 3, 2011.

Images from: http://www.goodsalt.com/details/pppas0162.html

 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 522-523. Print.

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Psalm 26Prayer of Innocence

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Artemisia Gentilesche: Susana

Yesterday I was speaking with a friend about how Psalm 73 always pops up when I am troubled about how to live in the world and not be of it.  As Paul tells the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 10:3): For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. In Psalm 73, The Trial of the Just, the psalmist expresses what happens to our thinking when we come close to losing faith that God is goodness and mercy and justice.  In today’s Noontime reading we find a kind of companion psalm, a prayer of innocence, a statement of faith and an affirmation of our covenant promise with God.

Just a few days ago we examined the first book of Esther in which the story of Mordecai begins to unfold.  He is wrongly accused and knows that he must rely on God and no other for salvation.  Like Job in his conversations with his three friends Bildad, Eliphaz and Elihu, he knows that only in a conversation with God will he find the answers he seeks.  And like Susana in the Book of Daniel he also knows that always our help arrives in God’s time and way rather than our own.

When we find ourselves in a quagmire not of our making, we might pray this psalm . . . I have walked without blame.  In the Lord I have trusted.

When we find ourselves in a nest of confusing lies and deceptions, we might pray this psalm . . . I do not sit with deceivers, nor with hypocrites do I mingle.

When we find ourselves embroiled in a plot we did not devise, we might pray this psalm . . . I hate the company of evildoers; with the wicked I do not sit.

And when we find ourselves rescued by God – as we always are – we might pray this psalm . . . My foot stands on level ground; in assemblies I will bless the Lord.

Once someone said to me that Psalm 26 cannot rightly be prayed by anyone except Christ since none of us is as perfect as the person who speaks here.  I replied that God does not expect perfection in our actions, only persistence in our attempt to be loving and just; that Christ is a tender brother who models how we might live yet forgives all our faults; that the Holy Spirit abides in each of us urging us to keep ever close to God.  When we listen to the words Christ speaks to us as God manifested among us, we know that forgiveness and openness to renewal are important in our development.  We know that the perfection God asks is our persistence in following Christ through any and all obstacles in our lives.  We know that the first step we must take toward God is a genuine repentance for any way we have offended God.  We know that God is eager to forgive our transgressions.  And we know that we are given infinite opportunities to amend and renew ourselves.

So today we take up this psalm to examine it and ourselves.  Are there times when we are not completely innocent of wrongdoing?  Yes, often.  Are there times when we have been wrongly accused and maligned.  Yes, and these times may be numerous.  Does God always forgive, is God always present, and does God consistently welcome us home when we have given offense?  Yes, and yes, and yes.  Today, if we find ourselves wanting, we have the opportunity to turn back to our journey of persistence, for in this we find perfection. And also today, if we discover that we have been unjustly accused, we have the opportunity to petition God with all the other innocents who suffer at the hands of those who disdain patience and kindness and justice.

Too often the innocent messenger is blamed for the harsh but true and necessary message.  We may have been the receiver of such a communication and behaved badly . . . and we may also have been the deliverer and suffered through no cause of our own.  In either case, let us together begin our singing . . . My foot stands on level ground; in assemblies I will bless the Lord. 


A re-post from October 30, 2011.

Visit The Race of the Just post at: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/11/21/the-race-of-the-just/ 

Image from: http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/2011/04/susanna-falsely-accused.html 

To read more about innocents who suffer follow the painting hyperlink on today’s post or visit:

http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/2011/04/susanna-falsely-accused.html

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1 ThessaloniansRejoice Always!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

As frequently happens with the Noontimes a theme is re-cycled to us; today it is the message that we are to rejoice in all circumstances – even when events indicate that we ought to be mourning.  A few weeks ago we visited the fifth chapter of this letter (Noontime September 30, 2011 – Pray Without Ceasing).  Today a portion of Chapter 1 serves as the second Mass reading in which Paul complements his followers in Thessalonica for their fidelity even through dark times, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers.  It is all too easy to turn away from God when dark events crush in on us.  And the joy we experience can be likewise all so rewarding when we turn to God when in the midst of suffering.

Recently an essay by James Martin, S.J. was published in AMERICA magazine and we may want to spend time reflecting on this oldest of books in the New Testament.  The photograph on today’s post is from that article and I encourage you to spend with it today.  We always welcome any word that shows us how to convert our mourning into dancing; we look for any guideposts that help us to Rejoice Always! http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13046


A re-post from October 23, 2011.

Images from http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/cheshire/gallantry-bank/pictures/ and http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13046

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Jeremiah 35Taking Correction

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Jeremiah and the Rechabites

The Rechabites who remain faithful are “reactionaries who believed that the Lord could not be well served except by maintaining the original nomadic conditions of Israel’s life.  Without sharing their convictions, the prophet holds up their fidelity to their ideals as an example to put to shame his faithless countrymen”.   (Senior 994)

Will you not take correction and obey my words? 

Each day we are called to listen to God that we might hear how we might correct the course we have set for the day, the week, the month, the year . . . our lives.

Each day we are given a new opportunity to reset our markers so that they point toward God.

Each day we are invited to trust and hope in the only source and goal of true life . . . God our creator.

The Psalm in the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer is Psalm 49Why should I fear in evil days the malice of the foes who surround me, men who trust in their wealth, and boast of the vastness of their riches?  For no man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life.  The ransom of his soul is beyond him.  He cannot buy life without end, nor avoid coming to the grave.  Then do not fear when a man grows rich, when the glory of his house increases, he takes nothing with him when he dies, his glory does not follow him below.  Though he flatters himself while he lived: “Men will praise me for my success,” yet he will go join his fathers, who will never see the light any more.  In his riches, man lacks wisdom: he is like the beasts that are destroyed. (Cameron 191)

Jeremiah offers to the Jewish community the opportunity to take correction.  The Rechabites, a community ignored and sometimes disparaged by the power structure, are a people who demonstrate more fidelity than those who hold positions of authority.  They are a people thought too old-fashioned, too simple, and too nomadic to be given much attention; yet the prophet uses them as an example of how to walk in God’s way.  They are faithful, obedient, and trusting.  And they stand as a stark contrast to the fattened, self-indulgent, and corrupt leadership of the time.

Living in the 21st century we try to be prudent with our resources so that we might have an income when we retire.  We try to be good stewards of our resources as we make intelligent purchases and support charities we find worthy of our time and talent.  We seek practical guidance, and we take sound advice before we invest our money and ourselves in a person or a cause.  We take correction where needed as we look to our future on earth.  Jeremiah today urges us to do the same in our spiritual life.

The MAGNIFICAT Mini-Reflection reads: Where we invest our trust and our hope, we invest our lives.  Let us choose to invest in the true source of life, Jesus Christ!  (Cameron 190)

The Israelites chose to ignore Jeremiah’s warning, and we know how the next centuries unfolded for that nation.  Let us heed his words, and the words of Matthew (6:20-21) which are part of today’s Evening Prayer: Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  (Cameron 190)

Let us take correction . . . so that we might trust God enough to invest all of our wealth in God’s saving power.


A re-post from October 20, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.994. Print.   

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 14.1 (2011): 190-191. Print. 

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Mark 15:6-15“What evil has he done?”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The scene of the crowd crying out to save Barabbas rather than Jesus has always been a difficult one for me to hear.  Troy Anthony Davis lost his life this week while crowds called for commutation of the sentence and others called for death.  Have we changed much in two millennia?

I remained baffled by human nature that calls for the sanctity of human before birth . . . while at the same time insisting on early death once life has begun.  We are a strange species.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/09/23/140748680/death-penalty-retains-support-even-with-pro-life-catholics-despite-flaws

The Davis case is one of many that continue to confuse us.  We can eliminate this confusion if we remember the scene that Mark paints for us today.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/category/categories/states/georgia

“What evil has he done?” asked Pilate.  But the crowd only shouted louder . . . and so Pilate washes his hands . . . and hands him over to be crucified.  We do not know if Davis was the person who murdered MacPhail, a Georgia policeman.  What we do know is that there is doubt . . . and still the crowds clamor.

The words of Isaiah are comforting in the face of rabid anger that insists on death without proof beyond doubt.  They are consoling when we are up against obtuse intransigence.  They are a balm that soothes the deep and ugly wounds left by those who insist on eradicating all that does not conform to their specific and particular ideas.

He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him.  He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.  Yet it is our suffering that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was pierced by our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed. 

It is not too difficult or too late to allow ourselves to be healed by Christ’s own death at the hands of those who wished to silence him.  We see by his example that the very action meant to end his influence only increased it many-fold.  As Laura Moye of Amnesty International is quoted in the Post link above, the execution of Davis may be “the best argument for abolishing the death penalty”.

And so we pray . . .

Good and Gentle God, you cure us of our smallest and greatest wounds . . . repair our emotional and physical scars and grant us the gift of healing that we may in turn heal others as you do.

Patient and Compassionate God, you soften hearts that are hardened in fear . . . make our hearts yielding and call them together to make them as great as yours.

Merciful and Clement God, you unbend necks that are stiffened in rage . . . unbend our necks and open our eyes that we may see as you do.

We ask this in the name of the one who was crucified for all, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.


A re-post from September 24, 2011. 

Find information about Troy Anthony Davis at: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/davis1269.htm

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Luke 7:11-17Do Not Cry

Friday, October 26, 2018

Mario Minniti: Miracle at Nain (Detail)

A series of miracles unfolds for us when we read this portion of Luke’s Gospel.  It is also an unfolding of God’s hand, a hand that calls us.  It is an opening of God’s presence among us, a presence that settles into us.  We need to expect miracles in our lives.  We need open ourselves to their possibility.  We need to ask God for them.  We need to believe that they can and do happen every hour of every day.  Miracles are not mere stories we read or wishes we hope for when we see a shooting star or blow out the dancing flames of birthday candles.  Miracles are the hand of God wiping away tears.  Miracles are the voice of God saying to us, Do not cry . . . And they take place every hour of every day.

In God’s hand is the soul of every living thing . . .  Job 12:10

God does not leave us to wonder about his existence, he comes to walk among us in the person of Christ.

God does not visit with us when he is bored or forget us entirely when another interest calls him away.

God does not play with us to see how we react; he does not find joy in our sorrow.

The Lord takes delight in his people . . .  Psalm 149:4

God is constantly with us, never leaving our side.

God suffers with us and feels our torment.

God celebrates with us when we find joy.

Each of us has been the Widow of Nain at some time in our lives; we have each suffered deep and damaging sorrow.  We may also have been the deceased son, dead to everything that formerly had meaning in our lives.  Seeing that the Widow of Nain would be destitute without the protection and support of her son, Jesus does not hesitate to call the young man back to life.  In doing this, he saves not only this small family but he also converts hundreds more who witness the miracle.  He calls the people of Nain– and us – to his message of love, telling all who will listen that we are free to act as God acts, free to love as God loves.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly whispering to us in little ways each day.  God calls us back to life and restores what we have lost.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly shouting to us in big ways each day.  God shepherds us past catastrophes and saves us from our worst choices.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly putting up warning signs.  God runs after us when we are too blind to see or hear his message.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly forgiving and loving us.  God runs out to greet us when we return to him.

Do not cry . . . Jesus says to the Widow of Nain . . . and to us.

Come back to me . . . God says to the Widow’s son . . . and to us.

We are all children of Nain.  Let us rejoice in the miracles we are granted.

Mario Minniti: Miracle at Nain (1620)


A re-post from September 23, 2011.

To learn more about the town of Nain in today’s Noontime, visit: https://www.seetheholyland.net/nain/

Images from: https://364sicilianrolemodels.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/mario-minniti/ 

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Acts 14Tenacity

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Iconium, Lystra, Antioch.  Jews, Gentiles.  Healings, beatings, curses, cures.  Zeus, Hermes, the Living God.  Hardships, celebrations.  Mythology, mysticism, illusion, reality.  In all of these places, with all of these people, in all of these philosophies and approaches, Paul and Barnabas journey together to deliver the good news that we are loved by the Living God.  I am exhausted just reading about their missionary journey as we watch these two faithful disciples of Christ persuade and teach, heal and call.  Despite the fact that they see much of their work undone, they continue to rejoice in the work they do as God’s servants asks of them.  They are an amazing – and successful – pair.  They bring many into the church.

Paul and Barnabas have much to teach us who are discouraged when small details of the day become looming obstacles.  They might show us that when we growl and complain about interrupted plans and schedules that we add to our own burden.  We see that they do not fall into the trap of thinking that the world is an unjust, corrupt and unfair place.  Rather than focus on the problems they navigate, they remain centered on doing God’s will.  These two friends have discovered that tenacity and companionship are antidotes for anger and dejection.  And they have learned that success comes most often and stays longest when they defer to God’s plan rather than their own.

Paul is a familiar figure to us but perhaps we can learn something more about Barnabas as he and Paul model how to best react when we see others dismantle the work we have lovingly delivered to God.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02300a.htm

Misunderstood by many, these two place their faith in God.  Rejected by the tradition in which they had been raised, they place their hope in Christ.  Quickly forgotten by the fledgling churches they have founded, they allow the forgiveness and healing of the Spirit to work through them.  Barnabas and Paul refuse to allow any failure to deter them.  They follow Christ . . . and they hold on.

And so we pray . . .

Faithful and abiding God,

We remember that you were the cornerstone that the builders rejected.

We believe that you walk with us in our journey just as you walked with the apostles in theirs.

We ask that you abide with us when the night grows darkest.

We know that you rejoice with us as we celebrate our little successes.

Lead us so that we remain faithful to you.

Guide us so that we remain hopeful in you.

Help us so that we react in love and not in anger when we see our work taken apart by others.

Grant us the gift of tenacity that you gave to Paul and Barnabas, on the days when we find our journey long, and our resources low. 

We ask all of this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.   


A re-post from September 20, 2011.

Image from: http://100reasonswhyilovemylord.blogspot.com/2011/05/reason-8-he-walks-with-me.html 

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Isaiah 51When We Feel Abandoned

Saturday, October 20, 2018

These are the first words that greeted me this morning in my email inbox.  They are from the Richard Rohr site to which I subscribe and currently Rohr is sending messages from his newest book, BREATHING UNDER WATER.  The title – and the meditation message below – speaks to anyone who has suffered deeply . . . and to anyone who longs to suffer well.

“Only people who have suffered in some way can save one anotherexactly as the Twelve Step program discovered. Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure. Only those who have tried to breathe under water know how important breathing really is, and will never take it for granted again. They are the ones who do not take shipwreck or drowning lightly, who can name “healing” correctly, who know what they are being saved from, and who develop the patience and humility to ask the right questions of God and of themselves.

“You see, only the survivors know the full terror of the passage, the arms that held them through it all, and the power of the obstacles that were overcome. Those who have passed over eventually find a much bigger world of endurance, meaning, hope, self-esteem, deeper and true desire, but most especially, a bottomless pool of love both within and without”.

From BREATHING UNDER WATER: SPIRITUALITY AND THE TWELVE STEPS, pp. 123,124,125 http://cacradicalgrace.org/resources/breathing-under-water

Here we have clear instructions for what to do when we are deeply troubled, for when we believe that we do not fully understand God’s plan, for when we may even feel abandoned by God.

Listen to me . . . we are instructed.  I will help you to breathe under water.  I will sustain you in a world that feels foreign to you.

Look to the rock from which you are hewn . . . God says to us.  You are made in my image.  I love you dearly.  I will never leave you.

Be attentive to me . . . God calls out to us.  I exist through all time and space as do you.  I speak to you now.  I am telling you that you will never fail.

Raise your eyes to the heavens and look at the earth below . . . we are challenged.  Choose life or death.  Choose your own plan or mine. 

Fear not the reproach of others . . . we are cautioned.  Their opinion means nothing in the light of eternity.  Follow the law rather than the whimsical judgment of those who chase after power, status and reputation.

Awake, awake, put on strength . . . God urges us.  I know that you are weary but my burden is light and my shoulders are broad.  I carry many but I long to carry you.

Hear me, you who know justice, you who have my teaching in your heart . . . God does not waver, God does not give up.  I, it is I who comfort you.  I am the Lord you God.  I have put my words into your mouth.  I have shielded you in the shadow of my hand.  I stretched out the heavens; I laid the foundations of the earth.  I am here to rescue you.

So when we are fear-filled, we must remember to ask for the grace, patience, and wisdom to discern God’s hand in all that happens around us.  When we feel abandoned, we must keep the arms of Jesus wrapped round us.  When it seems that all is hopeless, we must abide in the faith that God the Father knows all and keeps his promises.  When we are deeply troubled, we must ask intercession for those who have harmed us and done us damage.  When we feel utterly alone, we rest in the understanding and solace of the Holy Spirit.  And when we are healed . . . we turn to others to pass along the wonder of God’s love.


A re-post from September 17, 2011.

Images from http://www.flippersmack.com/ and http://recdive.com/2010/07/29/the-wonders-of-scuba-diving/

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Jeremiah 19: The Potter’s Flask

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Written on February 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It will make their ears tingle when they hear about the bloodshed of the innocent!  The Valley of Ben-hinnom will become the Valley of Slaughter.  The city will be an object of amazement and derision.  Passers-by will catch their breath at the wounds they see.  And a flask will be shattered like the lives of these people.  There will be so much death that there will be no place for burial.  This because they have stiffened their necks and have not obeyed my words. 

Jeremiah has visited Topheth, a town whose name could be pronounced with the vowels of the Hebrew word for shame.  “This was due to the practice of there of sacrificing children as burnt offerings to Baal and Molech in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isa. 30:33;  Jer. 7:31, 32; 19:6, 11-14; cf. 32:35).  Kings Ahaz and Manasseh of Judah are reported to have offered their sons in the Valley of Hinnom (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6).  King Josiah attempted to put a stop to the practice by defiling the altar of Topheth (2 Kings 23:10) but it was revived after his death”.  (Achetemier 1162)

When Jeremiah returns to Jerusalem and denounces not only this practice but the corruption in Jerusalem as well,  he is beaten and placed in stocks by orders of a temple priest and administrator, Pashhur.  “The prophet’s response was to rename the priest ‘Terror on every side’ (v. 3; cf. 6:25, where this phrase describes the people’s response to an invasion from the north, and 20:10, where is describes Jeremiah’s response to his enemies’ actions).  This name symbolizes the fact that Pashhur will be a ‘terror’ both to himself and to his friends: they and the whole land will suffer death, plundering and exile at the hands of the Babylonians (vv. 4-6).  The assertion that Pashhur has misled his friends (v. 6b) is the key to his condemnation.  His reaction to Jeremiah’s message was based on a partisan political position, supported, of course, by an appropriate religious ideology.  From his own standpoint Jeremiah was convinced that this position would lead to disaster”.  (HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, 561)

This is grime reading and yet it is the kind of persecution that takes place constantly in our world.  Sometimes is happens an ocean away . . . today I am thinking of the people of Egypt.  It also happens right under our noses . . . today I also think about someone dear to me who is persecuted for speaking up.  No matter when this kind of harassment takes place, the effect the bully wishes to create – silence – is void, and in time an opposite result occurs – the truth always comes out in the end. 

My parents continually reminded all five of us that this is one of the surest things we can count on and we read it here in Jeremiah.  This prophet was eventually taken away to Egypt by Jewish authorities who fled before the waves of invaders from the north.  His prophecy unfolds before their eyes, and still they revile him.  In the end, although there is no written evidence of this, Jeremiah is murdered in exile.

The sins in Topheth and the crimes of Pashhur continue today, but we must not allow this fact to sap us of our courage or energy.  We must remind ourselves and one another that the truth always comes out in the end.  So what are we called to do?  We must learn to faithfully witness to these crimes, to humbly pray for ourselves and our enemies, and to joyfully participate in the redemptive love that sets all injustice right in God’s time and in God’s way, lest we too be shattered like the potter’s flask . . .  beyond repair.


A re-post from September 15, 2011.

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1162. Print. 

Image from: http://pottery.about.com/od/stepbystepprojects/ig/Mug-Project-Photo-Gallery/Pottery-Flask.htm

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