First reading and psalm: Jer. 1:4-10 • Ps. 71: 1-6
Formed in the womb, elected for words to the nations, the preacher is not a man of his own word. He, a mere boy, is the bearer of celestial speech put into his mouth and seared upon his lips. Whether he roars or whispers, he is either pulling down or raising up. Plucking, pulling, destroying, overthrowing, he unsettles by his well-timed truths (Jer. 1:4-10). He names the oppressive yoke, the pointing of the finger, evil speech, a trampled Sabbath, all of which the hearers, though troubled, acknowledge as the truth (Isa. 58:9b-14). His accusations are a “just word” (Walter Burghardt, SJ), a summons to the proper ordering of communal life and shared responsibility, and thus they carry seeds of new life. Speaking, the preacher is building and planting.
A more excellent way is open to the hearer. Offer your food to the hungry, satisfy the needs of the afflicted, honor the Sabbath. Do not neglect the holy day in the name of “your own interests” (Isa. 58:13). The key is this. The happiness and strength of the community is linked irrevocably to the two great commandments. Sabbath rest underscores the claim of divinity upon every earthly and human detail. God calls, says our Morning Prayer Jubilate, “omnis terra,” the whole earth. The whole earth, on this holy day, rests before the creating God. From this rest come grace and power and virtue, such that the disciple is awakened to feed the hungry and help the afflicted. And it is never simply a question of the privileged giving to the disadvantaged because God so orders the community that each is a gift to the other. A blessed dependency prevails; cords of love and affection, responsibility and service, trial and joy, all work together to create one body.
The preacher is sometimes difficult. “See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking,” he says in his long introduction, trying to awaken deaf ears (Heb. 12:25). When he speaks, the world seems to shift and shake until the only things remaining are those strong enough to withstand the mighty word of God. A kingdom which cannot be removed sits secure (Heb. 12:28). The preacher speaks of God, humanity, the world. He looks, and waves his hands, looks deeply with his eyes, laughs at human folly, always opening the inscrutable mystery of the God who creates, redeems, sustains, sanctifies, and glorifies. Though the preacher is demanding, he leaves the hearer with that strange sense, an emotional reverberation deeper than fleeting thought. The hearer thinks — no, feels — that God has breathed new life over dry bones.
Jesus heard the preacher. A mere boy, he went to the synagogue again and again with his observant family. He knew the call to observe the sacred day. Love and holy fear fixed his heart to his heavenly father. Rising from the dead on the first day of the week, Jesus gave his followers reason to shift their weekly gathering to Sunday. He did not, it must be said, suffer and die and rise again to release his followers from following the sacred rite of a Sunday morning. On Sunday, the Lord’s Day, we Christians enter into a mystery which passes show. For the procession, lessons, gospel, preaching, creed, prayers, peace, bread of heaven, and wine of joy all proclaim, invoke, and exhibit the Living God. Sunday shakes the world, and a living church will ever be amazed at the wonderful things he has done (Luke 13:17).
Look It Up
Read Ps. 103:2. Do not forget.
Think About It
The preacher could say, “I am only a girl.” And God could say, “You are Fleming Rutledge, and you will go to all to whom I send you, saying what I say with your burning lips.”