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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 8, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 30:10–17           

But as for you, have no fear, my servant Jacob, says the Lord, and do not be dismayed, O Israel; for I am going to save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; I will make an end of all the nations among which I scattered you, but of you I will not make an end. I will chastise you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. For thus says the Lord: Your hurt is incurable, your wound is grievous. There is no one to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are so numerous. Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are so numerous, I have done these things to you. Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured, and all your foes, everyone of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall be plundered, and all who prey on you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: “It is Zion; no one cares for her!” (NRSV)

It is always challenging for me to read a few verses of scripture out of context. Yes, we can search for words that speak to us in our need and our longings. Yet when we come upon seemingly contradictory phrases, how are we to respond?

Such is the case with our reading from the prophet Jeremiah. I resonated immediately with the assurance that is offered: “Have no fear,” “I am with you to save you.” Then I stumbled over words of judgment: “I will chastise you for your guilt is great.”

 Our God has been, from the beginning, full of forgiveness and mercy for a wandering and wayward people. At the same time, the Holy One holds us accountable for our behavior, both our misdeeds and our inaction.

We live in the dynamic tension of divine justice and divine mercy—as individuals, congregations, and as a global society. We are lured by visions of the common good for all our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable. Yet we, like our spiritual ancestors, continue to fall short. Thanks be to God for the grace of forgiveness!

God of justice, God of mercy, help us know the creative tension of life with you. Sustain us when we strive and fail. Forgive us and fuel new efforts of discipleship, we pray. Inspire us by the words of the prophets and the words and witness of Jesus, our brother and our risen Lord. Amen.

Written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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