Lenten Season Daily Devotional*
March 11 - March 21
* additional dates to be added
We hope you will follow along daily and deepen your faith during this season of repentance and contemplation.
SATURDAY, MARCH 11, 2017
The Rev. Erin Davenport LSW ’05, Director of the Miller
Summer Youth Institute, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
18 You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. 22 If you will diligently observe this entire commandment that I am commanding you, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, 23 then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and mightier than yourselves. 24 Every place on which you set foot shall be yours; your territory shall extend from the wilderness to the Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the Western Sea. 25 No one will be able to stand against you; the LORD your God will put the fear and dread of you on all the land on which you set foot, as he promised you. 26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.
“Loving the Lord your God, and serving him with all your heart and with all your soul”—this is the command from verse 13 that is referenced throughout our passage today. This command is so important that the Israelites are implored to tell it to their children constantly—at home, away from home, when they sleep, when they wake up. There is no hour or situation when this command is not of utmost importance: Love the Lord your God and serve him. This passage is the foundation of my life. It is the reason I do what I do every single day. I encourage you today to let these words rush over you and through you, to tell them passionately to your children and your children’s children and the children you are blessed to be around through everything you do, every word you speak. Let us love the Lord our God and serve him with all our hearts and with all our souls.
Lord, no matter who our children are today—biological, young, old, neighbors, friends—help us to see them as children who need to hear this command today. Give us wisdom to share your love through our actions and words in times of joy and strife. Amen.
SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 2017
Dr. Scott Hagley, Assistant Professor of Missiology, Pittsburgh
3:31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
There’s always hope
Hope in death
It brands these bonds
Refines the rest
(from “These Days are Numbered” by The Head and the Heart)
Our Gospel text for today narrates the death of a preferred image of Jesus. Mark 3:31 begins in the middle of a cluster of stories held together by Jesus’ return home in 3:19b. After teaching, drawing crowds, and performing miraculous signs, Jesus returns home, and his family, certain that Jesus has gone crazy, attempts to restrain him. At the same time, the Scribes accuse him of demonic dealings. After telling the Scribes that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” Mark turns the story back to Jesus’ family, where Jesus indirectly addresses their concerns by redefining kinship. Mark narrates an enigma. Jesus refuses to be defined by the images that skeptics (the Scribes) and the faithful (the family) have for him. In his mercy toward us, he is wholly his own. We, therefore, can receive and respond to him, but we cannot construct or contain him. May we hear, see, and receive Jesus in unexpected ways this day.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017
Kimberly Gonxhe ’07, Director of the Metro-Urban Institute,
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 The Lord will not let your foot slip— the One who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, the One who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— the Lord will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Tragedy. Trauma. Pain. There are so many moments in the vicissitudes of life when we ask, Where is God in this? Why do the righteous suffer? Why do devout Christians die in pain? Why did tragedy strike my family? Why was this disease allowed to attack my body?
This life is full of mountains and valleys, joys and pains, triumphs and disappointments, but the God we serve is bigger than them all. As we trust and surrender ourselves to the Lord, things work out for our good. God uses both the beautiful and horrific to shape us into people we would never have dared to become on our own. Somehow, through this pruning and growing we become agents of influence and change able to influence others around us positively. As we look back, we can truly see that the eyes of God were watching over us all throughout our journey and protecting us along the way.
Lord, you are faithful. May we be still enough to see your hand in our lives. May we be always grateful for your unfailing love. May we trust you to do what you have said.
TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 2017
The Rev. Dr. David Morse, Lecturer in United Methodist
Studies, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. 3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD! 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees 1 For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who are they that fear the LORD?
He will teach them the way that they should choose.
They will abide in prosperity, and their children shall possess the land. 14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. 18 Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. 19 Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. 20 O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all its troubles.
During the time we call Lent, we are given an opportunity to reflect in a unique way on the question, “Who am I before God?” As we lift our souls to God, we are challenged to reflect on that question anew. The psalmist gives us some guidance to answer that question. As we reflect on his words, we discover several aspects of who we are. We are forgiven. Our sins, though real, have been forgiven. We are instructed. The Lord instructs us in the way of wisdom and thereby guides our path. We are given consolation in times of distress. These gifts, among others, are the gifts of God’s presence. This awareness empowers us to be able to live lives of confidence, lives of service, and lives of victory.
God of grace, God of forgiveness, God of wisdom, give us power to lift our souls to you, to embrace the cross, and to follow you as faithful disciples confident of your victory in Christ and our victory in Him. Amen.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2017
The Rev. Patrice Fowler-Searcy ’13, Associate Pastor for
Mission Ministries, East Liberty Presbyterian Church,
Pittsburgh / Board Member, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirtyeight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
Jesus went up to Jerusalem, the place where he ultimately would be lifted up and crucified, would draw all people unto himself, and would be recognized as the Son of God. Yet in this passage Jesus is near the Sheep Gate at the “House of Mercy” (Beth-zatha), where he finds a man who had been ill for 38 years. And Jesus queries the man, “Do you want to be made well?”
That is the question we each face daily: Do we want to be made well? Do we want to be made whole and cleansed of our sin, iniquities, proclivities, and faithlessness that cause us to be outside the will of God? Much like the Israelites whose faithlessness led them to wander in the desert for 38 years, our faithlessness leads us to dry places—or finds us sitting at the House of Mercy, yet unable to lift up our mats and walk. During this Lenten season, as we contemplate the faithfulness of God and the sacrifice of Christ, may we realize that we are healed, whole, and redeemed by God’s grace, mercy, and love.
Gracious and loving God, we give you thanks that your faithfulness is from everlasting to everlasting. As we contemplate the sacrifice of Christ, may we realize that we are empowered by your mercy to leave behind every weight that might cause us to stumble and to live faithfully as your children. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 2017
Kendra Buckwalter Smith ’12/’13, Worship Coordinator,
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28
9 On that day, says the LORD, courage shall fail the king and the officials; the priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded. 10 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, how utterly you have deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ even while the sword is at the throat!”
19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20 Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment. 21 How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? 22 “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.”
23 I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger. 27 For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. 28 Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God has been calling His people to repentance, but Judah will not turn. This passage gives us a pretty bleak picture of wrath and destruction. The consequences of sin play out in a startling reversal of the creation narrative as Jeremiah “looks on” at the world’s de-creation back to the chaos from which it was called (vv. 23-26).
As we journey to the cross this Lenten season, we are invited to “look on” along with Jeremiah—to look upon our selves and our world; to look upon the painful reality of injustice and broken relationships caused and perpetuated by our own failures to love God and one another fully. In short, to look upon all to which we would rather turn a blind eye. Our hearts will be broken along with God’s, and we will cry out with Him in anguish. But it is when we have truly looked at all that separates us from God and one another that we are able to “look on” as it is all put to death—nailed to the cross—that we might be freed to live as new creations in Christ.
Loving God, you have put to death the sin that separates us from you and one another. In you there is a new creation. In that assurance, allow us the grace to see ourselves clearly, that we may turn again to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2017
The Rev. Dr. L. Roger Owens, Associate Professor of Christian
Spirituality and Ministry, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! 3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! 4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. 6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, 8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! 9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! 10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! 12 Young men and women alike, old and young together! 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. 14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, or the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!
Lent is a season of penitence. We engage in self-examination and seek forgiveness; we remember that we are humans, from “humus”—the earth.
And yet in the midst of Lent, Psalm 148 intrudes as a reminder: We are still a people of praise. We may have buried the “Alleluias,” but we don’t need to forget what God has done. God has created and established all that is—including us. And so the psalm calls all of creation—sea monsters, fruit trees, mountains—to praise, which it can’t not do. By its very existence, creation praises God.
That’s what makes us different from the rest of creation. We can choose to turn away from our ultimate purpose—to worship, glorify, and enjoy God. In Lent we remember our habit of turning away from our true end and what God did in Christ to turn us back.
And so even in Lent, let us dare to let praise slip from our lips.
Let’s not leave the mountains and fruit trees to rejoice alone.
Forgiving God, we praise you for the work of creation, but most especially for the work of re-creating us in Christ, for forgiving us our sins and turning us back to the direction of our true purpose and end—to praise you forever. This we pray in the name of Christ, our Savior. Amen.
SATURDAY, MARCH 18, 2017
The Rev. Dr. Don McKim ’74, Academic and Reference Editor,
Westminster John Knox Press / Board Member, Pittsburgh
1 Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. 2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. 3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre. 4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory. 5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, 8 to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron, 9 to execute on them the judgment decreed.
This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the Lord!
“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song” (v. 1) commands the Psalm. Praise God for a victory God gave the people. We don’t know what it was. But God “adorns the humble with victory” (v. 4). So sing!
The words “new song” appear in other psalms (33:3;
96:1). They may designate a new composition praising
God’s goodness. But Karl Barth suggested that, in the Old Testament, “new song” refers to “the coming and crucial time of the Messiah” (Church Dogmatics III/3, 472). If he’s correct, this text is one for Lent.
The “humble” obtained “victory” (in Hebrew, also “salvation”). Jesus the Messiah “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Then God exalted him (2:9). Jesus brought victory and salvation. In Lent, we praise the humble Jesus who saves us from the cross—and who triumphs! God’s people “exult in glory” (v. 5). Sing a new song!
O God of goodness and blessing, we praise you that you are always with us. As you protected and helped your ancient people, so through your presence do you do for us now as we know your salvation in Jesus Christ. Thank you for the humble Christ, who triumphs over all! Amen.
SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 2017
Dr. Martha Robbins, Joan Marshall Professor Emerita of
Pastoral Care, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary / Director,
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. Here Paul is chiding those among the Corinthian community who falsely claim a freedom to enact carnal desires without discerning the effects such actions have on the individual and on the community. Paul thus provides the foundation and a principle for discerning whether something is beneficial or harmful to individuals, the community, and creation. He asks them and us to step back and reflect on the source and purpose of our lives. Why were we created, redeemed, and gifted with the Holy Spirit if it were not for God’s desire for us to be united in love with God, one another, and all creation as living members of Christ’s Body, glorifying God? That’s the foundation! Every desire, thought, word, and action leads us either toward or away from the purpose for which we were created. The principle for discerning our choices, then, is twofold: (1) do I recognize which direction this particular desire, thought, word, or action is leading me or could lead me, and (2) do I choose and act upon that which glorifies God or that which further enslaves me, the community, or creation?
Gracious God, in your loving mercy and for the sake of your glory, help me each day to notice more accurately those desires, thoughts, words, and actions that are leading me toward you and those that are leading me away from you, and grant me the grace to act or reject them accordingly.
MONDAY, MARCH 20, 2017
The Rev. Melanie Kim Hamill ’12, Campus Minister, Ringling
College of Art & Design, New College of Florida, and
University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee
14 About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. 15 The Jews were astonished at it, saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?” 16 Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. 17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. 18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him. 19 “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 25 Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? 27 Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” 30 Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, “When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and, ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
As we know, teaching and healing were intrinsic parts of Jesus’ ministry. He taught right up to the very end. He healed right up to the end. During his last trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus deliberately chose to heal a man on the Sabbath. This violation of the Sabbath Law greatly angered the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders, who believed that their interpretation of the law was the only path toward being “right” with God. Jesus set out to remove the pillars of power from the religious leaders of his time. That he was well versed without any formal teaching threatened the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders. Jesus publicly questioned and revealed a fatal flaw in the belief system they had established. They were so bound by their understanding of the Law that they missed the true character of God revealed in the Law. Jesus wanted his captive audience to understand that honoring God by tending to the needs of others will always be the priority of the Kingdom of God over following the rules for rules’ sake.
May we follow Jesus . . .
May we teach like Jesus . . .
May we question those in power like Jesus . . .
May we work to serve like Jesus . . .
May we bring healing like Jesus . . .
May we point to Jesus . . .
May we hope in Jesus . . .
May we do all these things in the mighty name of Jesus . . . .
TUESDAY, MARCH 21, 2017
The Rev. Dr. Steve Tuell, James A. Kelso Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
21 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. 22 For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. 23 But this command I gave them, “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.” 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. 25 From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day; 26 yet they did not listen to me, or pay attention, but they stiffened their necks. They did worse than their ancestors did. 27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips. 29 Cut off your hair and throw it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation that provoked his wrath. 30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the LORD; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 31 And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire— which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury
in Topheth until there is no more room. 33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. 34 And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.
Critics of religion often claim that God is nothing more than human arrogance “writ large against the sky.” It is sadly true that, rather than pursuing what it means for us to be made in God’s image, we often try to remake God into ours! Jeremiah confronts a people persuaded that God is like them: unjust and bloodthirsty. They are sacrificing their own children to this “god” in the Valley of Hinnom—or, as the Gospels call it, Gehenna (Matt 5:22; Mark 9:34). Jeremiah calls his people, and us, back to the true worship of the true God, who requires not blood, but love and justice: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you” (Jer 7:23).
Open our eyes, O Lord, to who you are, and to who we are. Grant us the clarity of vision never to confuse the two. This we pray in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, who alone “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Heb 1:3). Amen.