When I try to imagine the showdown between prophets that’s described in this morning’s Old Testament reading, the scene I picture looks a little like a pro wrestling match. Certainly Jeremiah is dressed for spectacle, wearing the wooden yoke – that’s the thing that goes over an animal’s neck so it can pull a cart or a plow – because God told him to wear a yoke to symbolize God’s command to submit to the conquerors from Babylon.
And now entering the ring, Jeremiah’s opponent, the prophet Hananiah!
And if the name Hananiah isn’t familiar to you, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Hananiah’s entire story takes up one short chapter in the book of Jeremiah – just 17 verses – and the chapter heading in my Bible is Hananiah Opposes Jeremiah and Dies. He stood before the king and the people and told them what they wanted to hear – but he was wrong, and that was the end of him.
And I want to talk about this story because – as short as it is – I think it raises some important questions for us. How do we recognize the false prophets of our time? How do we decide what to believe when we hear conflicting messages from people who all claim to be speaking truth? Those are important questions, but before we consider them in the light of this reading, we need to go back and take a closer look at the story of Jeremiah and Hananiah, because the five verses we just heard read aren’t nearly enough to understand what’s going on here.
It was good to be on vacation, and now it’s good to be back again.
We were at the Grand Canyon for a few days, and in San Diego for a few days after that, and as a photographer I loved taking pictures of sunrise over the Canyon, and sunset over the Pacific Ocean.
But as a church geek, I thought the high point of the trip was worshiping on Sunday in a very interesting parish in San Diego. We were staying in the North Park neighborhood, which is a lively place – Forbes magazine lists it as “one of America’s best hipster neighborhoods.”
I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but it did have some microbreweries and a lot of restaurants and coffee shops – which was certainly good for me! – and a lot of those classic California bungalow style houses, including the one we stayed in, courtesy of Airbnb. Which turned out to be more or less around the corner from the Episcopal church in North Park.
I remember the first time I visited Ruth after she had moved into the healthcare building at the Lutheran Community in Telford.
I knew she wasn’t feeling especially well that day, but we still talked for a bit – because she always appreciated hearing the news from Good Shepherd
– and then we got ready to pray – because Ruth was always grateful to have communion.
And when we reached the end of the written communion service, I offered a few more spontaneous prayers … for Ruth’s own healing and comfort … for her family … for those doctors, nurses, and others who were taking care of her. Continue reading →
When we read this passage at funerals, it’s meant to be a source of comfort … a word of consolation to those who mourn.
Don’t worry for your loved one who has departed this life. You may grieve the loss of their presence with you here, but take heart at least in knowing that wherever you make of these dwelling places Jesus has promised … your loved one has been released from the suffering of this world.
I think there is some comfort in that thought, even in the midst of loss.
But there’s so much more to this Gospel this passage is taken from – the Fourth Gospel, the last of the Gospels to be written and the one that is most concerned with the subject of love: God’s love for us, and for all creation, and our love for each other.
The dead man’s sister protests: He died four days ago, she says. It will stink.
But Jesus tells them to take away the stone, and they do it.
Then he looks up to heaven, and he prays. He looks back to earth and cries out in a loud voice: Lazarus, come out!
And even in death, Lazarus hears Jesus calling his name. He hears the voice of the one who knows each of his sheep by name, whose sheep know his voice and follow him. He hears that voice, calling to him, Lazarus come out!