Danger, Faith, and Love January 31, 2016 Sunday's Readings 4 Epiphany Jer. 4:1-10 • Ps. 71:1-6 • 1 Cor. 13:1-13 • Luke 4:21-30 Prophets do not seek ordination. They are formed, consecrated, and appointed for a job they would have never chosen. Providence and circumstance collude to make the prophet’s vocation a necessary trial forged in a critical historical moment. Jeremiah is just a man, and yet he is called to speak for God: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1:8). Confirming the call, God reaches out to touch his lips and then puts a scroll upon his tongue: “See, today I appoint you over the nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy, and to overthrow” (Jer. 1:10). Savage destruction is not the point. Rather, judgment is for this: “to build and to plant.” Still, Jeremiah speaks against Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, and Judah, for which he pays dearly in sorrow and lament. Speaking for God, he endures all things in the cause of love. “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2). So deep is God’s love for his people. Threats abound in the Bible as they do in the world. “Deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me” (Ps. 71:2). “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: for still our ancient foe doth see to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.” The great hymn continues with a note of triumph: “for lo, his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.” Deliverance for the prophet, the psalmist, and anyone who has heard the voice of God is a matter of trust. “Upon you I have leaned from my birth” (Ps. 71:6) The active voice here is a concession to modern English. Earlier translations are rightly sensitive to the passive voice, as in the Authorized Version: “by thee I have been holden up.” There is a difference. God is the actor; God upholds. Still, it is not wrong to suggest that in all our need we too lean willingly upon God. The Greek verb “I believe,” pisteuo, takes either the dative case, suggesting that belief is toward someone or something, or the accusative case, meaning into. In both instances, commitment is implied. So, there is something compelling about belief or faith as “leaning toward God.” It is a deep and abiding trust in God in the face of life’s beauties and dangers. “Firm faith means leaning, with great trust, on the divine goodness, and, as it were, resting upon it, and not doubting for a moment that the word of God which promises all these things to us is strength and truth” (Calvin, Institutes). Yes and no. We lean upon God when our trust seems confirmed, when blessings are evident. We may also lean with the full weight of doubts and despair and unbelief. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46-47; Ps. 22:1) We can do this because we lean into the God who upholds in love. Love is the last thing. Faith is awakened. Hope is the long human road, from birth to death. Love is God’s eternal embrace, God upholding. Look It Up: Read 1 Cor. 13. Not a wedding day, but a long and good and difficult life. Think About It: Jesus said that God loved the widow of Zarephath in Sidon, that God loved Naaman the Syrian. “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage” (Luke 4:24-28). Although hated, he was appointed for lavish love.