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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 28, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 32:1–3, 6–15                                    

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. (NRSV)

As I read and reflected on these words of the prophet Jeremiah, a powerful encounter from many years ago came to mind. One of the members of my prior congregation had been a pioneer in the welcoming church movement. At that point, David Sindt was in the closing weeks of his life. As I sat next to his bed late one afternoon, he shared with me a fundamental insight that had come to him after years of witness and advocacy. “You have to take the long view,” he counseled (likely knowing his pastor’s impatience). “For me, it has been changing people’s minds and faithful convictions one person at a time.” David helped me understand the practice of prophetic patience.

That was the message of Jeremiah to the residents of Jerusalem many centuries earlier. The prophet conveyed his convictions through a detailed account of an everyday real estate transaction, purchasing a plot of land in Anathoth. Why would he do that when the Babylonian army had surrounded the city, leaving most people hopeless as they looked to the future?

Jeremiah (himself under house arrest) had the deeds to the land placed in an earthenware jar for extended safekeeping. And then we read the punch line: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in the land.”

The prophet’s symbolic act conveyed a profound message of prophetic patience. Exile was still to come. Yet God was not done with God’s people. Trusting in the Holy One, the residents of Jerusalem were to persist with patience. As are we.

God of unending hope, may we trust in you, especially when the future may seem hopeless. Nurture our patience, we pray. Help us hold on to the long view, guided by ancient and present prophets. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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