"Doom and Gloom"

Pentecost 17C: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

7068056719_3004e8e746Jeremiah 4:11-12: “At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse—a wind too strong for that.”

Bathroom humor transcends all peoples; I have to imagine that at least a few young men and women chuckled at this one about a “hot wind” coming from the Lord.

Just me? Okay.

In Midrash, we allow interpretations such as these--be they silly or strange--to remain present in the conversation. Sometimes we scrap them for the sake of a different meaning, but sometimes they can lead us to legitimate insights into what scripture might have to teach. In this passage from Jeremiah, there is a lot of "doom and gloom," but what is the point, really?

Jeremiah writes that he looked on the earth/heavens/mountains/hills/people/animals/land/cities/etc. and saw that they were waste/void/lightless/quaking/moving/gone/desert/ruined/etc. All of these destroyed things lied before the Lord and the "his" fierce anger; and when the whole land is desolate, the Lord will not end it completely but will just let it be.

Well that’s just great. It seems as if the Lord is either doing these things, is going to do these things, or is going to let these things happen, and will not end all the pain and suffering, despite the imminent desolation. Sounds rather bleak to me—certainly not something that a God who “is love” would do.

What do we make of all of the chaos without throwing out the Hebrew Scriptures or putting a “Jesus Loves Me” bandage on our biblically induced wounds?

If we really pause and begin to dissect this passage, we see the element of a mysterious God—that mystery is how we assure ourselves of God’s mighty power without making a real attempt to fully explain that power. Over-explanation in cases like this usually leads us to more questions than answers (and we should run from anyone who claims to have the answers).

So we have our mysterious (gassy) God, and all we know is that “he” is angry; I get grumpy when I’m bloated too, but God seems to be angry at us—at our foolishness. We know how to do evil—we’re quite good at it—but we don’t seem to know how to do good.

Find yourself a reliable news source (no, not the ones that spend time reporting on Miley Cyrus). Syria, Afghanistan, India, Georgia, etc.… “We” have already started the chaos, either by direct action or simply in our complacency.

What is Jeremiah doing beyond asking us to take notice, to think about the possible causes and consequences of our action and inaction, and to remember and trust that this mysterious God is somehow sustaining existence?

As Walter Brueggemann wrote, “When we have such texts in hand, the remainder of the work is imaginative, faithful interpretation.”

The Rev. Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s every Wednesday, offering reflections on the readings of scripture from the upcoming Sunday.

Into the Fire is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Using an adapted process of Midrash, the author includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself, or on Facebook or Tumblr.