For Sunday, September 25, 2016
Year C, Proper 21
I’m back this week with my good friend Jeremiah. I just can’t stay away from this guy. Here he’s buying real estate in the face of a Babylonian invasion. What we’ll discover is that God sometimes calls us to be the ultimate contrarians.
20 years ago I was reading this passage while traveling by train to Iasi (“Yash”), Romania. My colleague asked what I was reading. I said, “Jeremiah 32”. He followed, “What are you getting out of it?” I said, “It’s possible I’m supposed to buy an apartment where we live in Irkutsk, Siberia. Buying an apartment in the risky Russian real estate market of the time was certainly contrarian. But with the help of some generous donors buy it we did, and it became a wonderful gathering place for our growing Russian family of friends. We named it “The Anathoth Hospitality House” after the property Jeremiah is buying here.
As we follow the Lord there will be times he asks us to be the ultimate contrarians. We will do things that just don’t make sense outside of God’s economy. What Jeremiah does here is truly astounding. He is under house arrest for telling his King that fighting the Babylonians is pointless because God has already doomed Judah to defeat. Then God tells him to buy a piece of property, one that the Babylonians have already overrun. Yet Jeremiah receives confirmation when his cousin Hanamel makes the very same request that God did. This is a wonderful example of prophetic confirmation. When God tells us things he will often send someone to us to confirm that we have really heard from him.
Jeremiah buys the property, and says something very moving: “Take these deeds … and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”
Jeremiah could see what no one else could. As bad as things looked in the moment, there was hope just over the horizon. Jeremiah turned out to be right. After 70 years of The Babylonian Captivity, the people of Judah returned and houses and fields and vineyards were indeed bought again.
This can offer us tremendous encouragement in this present cultural moment. When Christians are being marginalized and labeled as racists and bigots we can see over the horizon to the day when Jesus consolidates the victory already won on the cross. We can therefore be gracious even to our foes. For like us, they are made in the image of God, and houses and field and vineyard will again be purchased in the land of our kingdom.