Jeremiah 36. 48
Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, …“You are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the LORD’s house you shall read the words of the LORD from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the people of Judah who come out of their cities. It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the LORD, and that everyone will turn from their evil ways, for great is the anger and wrath that the LORD has pronounced against this people.” And Baruch the son of Neriah did all that Jeremiah the prophet ordered him about reading from the scroll the words of the LORD in the LORD’s house.
Words of Hope
In the Hebrew Scripture days of Jeremiah the Prophet, God did a lot of judging and punishing, often on a sweeping scale and almost always because the whole nation had committed a variety of collective transgressions against the Lord. The result was what we would call rotten luck in the form of lost wars, natural disasters and plagues. God’s judgments were swift and uncompromising. A possible avoidance of the inevitable could occur if the whole nation, meaning every person in it, could “turn from their evil ways.” It was that simple. Everyone in an entire nation would agree to beg for forgiveness and start over in unity, promising never to make the same disastrous mistakes again. It was a simple formula, but, you guessed it, it simply never worked.
Reading those ancient scriptures, it’s easy for us to say, “Oh those primitive people, believing that every wrong move they made was immediately judged and severely punished by God!” We also could say, “Imagine, every single person in an entire nation agreeing to repent and change their ways!” Retro fitting the ancients into our modern way of thinking has never worked, but one major advantage the Hebrews had over us is that in theory, a national rebirth was a possibility because everyone in the nation agreed on their view of the truth. God was in charge. People ignored God. God sent punishment. The people drastically changed. God forgave. The punishment ended.
Today, truth is not so well-packaged. According to which news-commentator or social media prophet we follow, the menu of the cafeteria of truth is endless and many of us have lost our appetites for it. At this point, the words of Jeremiah can speak boldly to us. He tells Baruch to share the truth of God to the people on one of their traditional days of fasting. In our times, that could mean at a time we designate to ourselves when we fast from all the absolutes and warnings, predictions and criticisms, and be silent, open to feeling the peace of God and perhaps even hearing God’s voice.
And that is the one voice that always speaks the truth. You may be surprised by what you hear.
Help us to set aside times of fasting from the clamor of endless voices that block our hearing of your truth. Amen
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare