By Michael Smith
A Reading from Jeremiah 7:1-15
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. 3Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. 4Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” 5For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, 6if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, 7then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever. 8Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. 9Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!” — only to go on doing all these abominations? 11Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. 12Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13And now, because you have done all these things, says the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently, you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your ancestors, just what I did to Shiloh. 15And I will cast you out of my sight, just as I cast out all your kinsfolk, all the offspring of Ephraim.
God sends the prophet Jeremiah to the temple, the LORD’s house, to proclaim this message: “Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place.” The people seem to have fallen into a false sense of security that if the system of temple prayers and sacrifices continues, the Holy One of Israel will remain appeased. Not so. God insists that the actions of their lives must be in harmony with their worship. Part of keeping the covenant is obeying the commandments and avoiding the oppression of the weak and maintaining justice.
I am mindful that many of our congregations recite the Decalogue or Ten Commandments during the season of Lent. This is a good practice reminding us of the foundation of our moral lives. The Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer teaches that from the Ten Commandments we learn “our duty to God, and our duty to our neighbors” (BCP, p. 847). There is also in this section of the Catechism a further exploration into the implications of these duties.
This week, spend some time in this section of the Catechism as an examination of conscience. How are you doing in terms of God’s expectations for your life? Take these reflections with you to next Sunday’s worship, whether in person or virtually, or make an appointment to share them with a priest. Hear these words and take them to heart: “Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen” (BCP, p. 353).
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Athabasca (Anglican Church of Canada)
Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tenn.