A blogger and colleague of mine quoted a scholar, I believe David Lose, who says there are two parts of the church year: the story of Jesus (Advent to Pentecost) and the story of the churches living into Jesus’ ministry (after Pentecost), at least that’s what I recall. Anyhow we are slap in the middle of the living into Jesus’ ministry time. And as tempting as it is to hear this week’s readings as an individual I am certain there are enormous lessons for the Church (the body of Christ) and the church (the institution, what ever variation you are affiliated with).
Jeremiah hears God’s call, hears God tell him: go where I send you, say what I tell you to say, do not be afraid. And yes, you will have to pluck up, pull down, destroy and overthrow; you will also build and plant.
Hebrews Paul is very clearly saying, as hard as it is to hear, the choice is oh so very one sided, Jesus is the way over the top superior choice. But there is a choice, and there are consequences for your choice.
My undergraduate degree is in Sociology, and though many years ago, I remember enough about statistics to prudently trust numbers. The numbers (declining metrics of all sorts) tell me, that for a long time, (and according to Diane Butler Bass, longer than we acknowledge) we have not listened to God, not gone where God is sending us, are not saying what God is telling us to say. We are holding onto what we hold dear, while we should be, if not plucking them up, or destroying them, at the very least, letting them go. The sad reality is the harder we hold on, the less able we are to plant and build awareness of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Hebrews Paul would tell us “You are choosing poorly.” I would add that the consequences are weighing us down. We are now so bent over, we can not see the truth of the world around us; we can not even see the truth about ourselves.
My greatest fear is that as congregations and congregational leaders continue to act out of a perception of scarcity, continue to act out of fear, we can not hear God in Jesus calling us. One wonders about the rest of the story …