Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
‘…The word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah … while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.’
A very important passage, which profoundly speaks to our situation. We are offered fresh insights and new revelations. God’s angel (of history) is always waiting for us to offer a new beginning. When history seems ‘closed around us’, we are given the encouragement that all our situations are redeemable!
This hope comes from the future. This encouragement and assurance of our freedom from the present is the gift of the Holy Spirit. This ‘turning to God’ is a great reminder ‘that the Spirit is not something that “animates” a Church which already somehow exists. The Spirit makes the Church be. Pneumatology (the works of the Holy Spirit) does not refer to the well-being but to the very being of Church. It is not about a dynamism which is added to the essence of the Church. It is the very essence of the Church.’ (John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, New York, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press 1993 /1985/, p.132)
Our ability to believe and know that our future is always open to a positive transformation is the essence of the local community, and that of individual spirituality.
Work for God (Jeremiah 32,1-25; 2 Corinthians 5, 20-7,1) Matins, Book of Common Prayer Lectionary, Wednesday after tenth Sunday after Trinity
‘...The Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, great in counsel, and mighty in work; for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings: which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even onto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; and hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand.’
Praising God revitalises the soul and re-energises (re-orients) our Christian culture. We also understand from the words of prophet Jeremiah that the stake is real. If we cease to worship God and serving him in history, captivity ‘will surround us’. The temples of alien (cruel) gods will be erected and will pose a new oppressive power. ‘Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it.’
Saint Paul’s is a beautiful metaphor: ‘we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’ What lies beyond this image is the toiling of the new church, emerging from the spiritual captivity of the age. The self-portrait of these laborious first Christians is so fresh in Paul’s account. They work in ‘afflictions, in necessities, in distress, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults… by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God… as unknown, and well known, as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heat is enlarged.’
This work of resurfacing unto God’s life giving grace is our work, right now. The birth of a renewed church, via our conversion, is taking place, right now. We are called to reflect on our task of separating ourselves from the idols of the age and nurturing our distinct Christian identity. This is a laborious office, a work of God, day by day – with the ethics of work and prayer of the early Benedictine communities. The church, our present and future joy, is born from this tireless toiling: discerning between our true self and captivity.
‘…And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Ans what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.’
In the Babylonian captivity, the people are yearning for a return. To the extent that false prophecies arise. (Hananiah falsely promises a liberation from the Assyrian rule and a return in two years time.) Jeremiah refutes these claims by pointing out that the precondition of peace and security is repentance which has not taken place.
Besides this, it is worth focusing on the desire to return to the Promised Land. There is a precondition for this: keeping the mysteries of our faith alive. In order to be rescued from the spiritual captivity, which our age enforces upon us, we must remember and keep the practices of faith. We live in a time of preparation… As for the desired peace, which is increasingly disappearing, Jeremiah message remains timing. There is no national and international security and peace without repentance.
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, shows this intense memory-work. Christians must keep reminding themselves of their transformation in Christ. ‘For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, and house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.’ This desire heals. This desire gives us orientation.
‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’ The intensity of this reminder is not a utopian yearning for something unreachable. On the contrary. It points to that transformation, in which if are not anchored, our faith and the capacity of our soul will perish. Our heart must beat for Christ, nurturing our ongoing transformation and fulfilment.
It is also worth raising the disturbing question as to whether we are not treated and exploited as slaves by our culture? Our contemporaries are under such a pressure and subtle dependencies, that, the culture in which we live in, allows no room for God. This lack of time dedicated to our soul, our God, and to our families is the nature of being a slave.
That is why setting up our prayer communities in our parishes is so important.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..