“There was no water in the cistern, only muc, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.”(Jeremiah 38:6)In the name …
Last week we were away for a few days on vacation and for the most part the weather was great.But late one afternoon we were sitting on LongSandsBeach in York, ME when a storm approached and it started to rain.It wasn’t pouring or anything, but the clouds were thick and the fog came in out of nowhere.We left the beach and headed up towards Nubble Lighthouse.I thought it would be nice to take a few pictures of us in front of the lighthouse during the storm.The only problem with that plan is that you couldn’t see the lighthouse.It’s only across a narrow, little inlet of water, but you could not see the lighthouse.And I’m not just talking about the building.You could not see the light from the lighthouse.So my question is, what good is a lighthouse if you can’t see its light during a storm.Sure it looks beautiful on a sunny day, and everyone who goes to York has a picture of that lighthouse somewhere, but the real beauty of a lighthouse is its light during the storm.What’s the use of a lighthouse you can only see on a sunny day?
With this in mind, let’s think about today’s two readings.First we hear about the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.His is an amazing story of grace.He was called to proclaim God’s Word as the state of Israel was collapsing.He had the unfortunate and unpopular task of telling the Jewish people that God had turned against them and had given them over to their enemies.And for this he was despised and ridiculed by his own people.At one point, in a very uncustomary biblical passage, the prophet bares his soul for all to see:“O Lord, you have seduced me,” says Jeremiah, “and I was seduced.You have overpowered me, and you have prevailed.I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones.I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (19:7-9)
This is why when we get to our passage from Jeremiah we find him being condemned as a traitor.He’s telling the people of besieged Jerusalem that the city will fall to their attackers and that resistance is futile because God has turned against His once holy city.It’s not hard to imagine why the rulers in Jerusalem would arrest this doomsday prophet.It’s not hard to understand why they would lower him into water cistern to stand there in the mud until he died.What is hard to understand is why the prophet would endure so much for God.This is not an image of the faith that too many of us are comfortable with any longer in this day and age.Many modern believers tend to not like hearing about the hardships and sacrifices necessary in a real faith-life, but it’s examples like Jeremiah that stand-out as lighthouses in a storm.
Think about Jesus’ own words to us today.They’re not unlike the example of Jeremiah, and just like the prophet’s story, we’re not used to hearing Jesus like this either.His words and His agitation may seem strange to us.“‘I have come to set the earth on fire,’” says the Good Shepherd, the healer, the comforter, the Saviour, “‘and how I wish it were already blazing!’”(Lk 12:49)“‘Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?No, I tell you, but rather division.’” (12:51)This is not the Jesus of Christmas cards and of those seeking an unchallenged faith.This is the Jesus who says that to believe in Him is going to lead to some confrontations in life, that to choose Jesus is sometimes going to be difficult and unpopular and will lead to division.Jesus is basically asking if we’re up to taking a stand for Him, if we’re up to being the lighthouse that’s seen during the storm.
Tonight on the first night of our diocesan Youth Retreat we’re going to show a fun video.There will be religious ones later in the week, but on the first night we take it easy.Do you know how hard it is to find a mainstream video that is appropriate for a church youth retreat?And you know why, because we don’t care enough about what comes into our homes to stop watching.We can’t blame Hollywood because they only make what we want to see.We’re not willing to be the lighthouse in the storm.
I want to tell you a Daisy Benjamin story because I hear a lot of them when we drive to different church events.When she was a teenager she went out to a dance on a Saturday night and didn’t get up in time for church on Sunday.She and her girlfriends always went to the movies on Sunday afternoons.She was getting ready to leave when her father asked her where she was going.When she said to the movies, his response was if you’re not feeling well enough to get up for church, you’re not feeling well enough to go to the movies.That’s a story from another generation, but why?Why don’t we count our shared time together in worship as that important any more?Why can’t we be the lighthouse in the storm, why can’t we stand-out with our example when it comes to church?
Jesus stood up for the outcast and the suffering in His holy example of life.When school starts in a couple of weeks, and the pecking-order of popularity begins to take form, some kid is going to be the butt of jokes, somebody is going to be ignored and talked about in whispers, stand by that kid.Be different.Be the lighthouse in that kid’s storm.And as an adult I’ve never worked in the usual workplace, but if the same thing happens there, do something about.Be the lighthouse.
It’s not always easy to be a person of real faith, but when it’s difficult, sometimes that’s when faith is its truest, not to mention it’s most needed.A lighthouse in the sun is pretty to look at, but it’s the lighthouse in the storm that can save.For this we pray in Jesus’ name.Amen.(+)