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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, October 25, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 31:27–34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. 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. 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. 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. 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. (NRSV)

Why would anyone eat sour grapes? Sour grapes are some really awful stuff. Don’t ask me how I know this (I’ve eaten some).

Why wouldn’t anyone just let the grapes ripen? Why would anyone be in that much of a hurry to eat grapes? Are they afraid that if they wait someone else might get the grapes? Are they thinking, “Hey, better sour grapes than no grapes at all”? (Again, this is not true. Sour grapes are worse than anything.)

But what if you could eat the sour grapes and someone else would get the awful taste in their mouth?

Mmmm. Gimme the grapes. Consequences, shmonsequences.

And no grapes ever ripen. The hungers of the present starve the future. Those with power, who are insulated from consequence, will pluck up and tear down, overthrow and destroy to satisfy their immediate desires. They will rip everything up to create short-term shareholder value.

The hungers of the present starve the future. Can families save for college when food and clothing are hard enough to come by? Can the sick save for the future when their illness needs treatment now?

Faith lives in the future. It’s all about things being better in the future. It’s about planting and building, not ripping up and tearing down. It’s about letting the grapes ripen, making sure the outcomes in the future are sweet. If someone comes along later and they benefit from your work, good.

The law of God, the one that God wants written on our hearts, is not a set of rules. It is a law of spirit, of regard, of care for others as if they were us—not as if they were like us, but as if they were us. It’s the radical empathy that enables someone to build a building they won’t live in and plant the tree in whose shade they won’t sit. It’s the love that enables the labors of the present to feed the future.

Dear Lord, remind us to love not only those we see in front of us, but also those who come after whom we will not see. Make us good stewards out of love. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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