The Days Will Surely Come – A Sermon On Jeremiah 33:14-16

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

Do you ever feel like your life is out of kilter and you’re a hot mess? Do you ever feel like you’re out of sync with yourself, others, or God?  

“The days will surely come,” says the Lord, “when ….”

When have the walls of your life been breached, your security violated, and your life overrun by circumstances bigger and more powerful than you? 

“The days will surely come,” says the Lord, “when ….”

When has your life been turned upside down? When have circumstances left you with no plan and no foreseeable way forward?    

“The days will surely come,” says the Lord, “when ….”

Do you ever feel like you’re a stranger in your own life? Do you ever feel as if you’re living in a foreign land where nothing fits or feels right?

“The days will surely come,” says the Lord, “when ….”

Have you ever wished for the good old days and the way things used to be? Do you sometimes just want to go home? Are you waiting for something to come but not even sure what it is you’re waiting for?

“The days will surely come,” says the Lord, “when ….”

If you answered yes to any of those questions and you know what any of those situations are like, then you also know what it’s like to live in the tension between the reality of what is and what will be. It’s a time of waiting in the darkness of not knowing. That in between place is the Season of Advent. The gap between what is and what will be is a place of anticipation and expectancy. It’s the birthplace of hope and the canyon from which God calls. 

The community to which Jeremiah is speaking in today’s old testament reading (Jeremiah 33:14-16) is living in that tension. The Babylonian army has devastated Jerusalem. Some of the Jews have been deported from their homeland. Others are occupied citizens in their own land. And Jeremiah is in prison. It’s a time of turmoil and chaos, and my guess is that we all know what that’s like.

How are we to live in the gap between what is and what will be? How do we hold that tension when it feels like it’s pulling us apart? Or as the psalmist asks, “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” (Psalm 137:4)?

“Escape is not a response, neither is mourning for some illusory, imagined perfect age gone by. We have to recognize what can be changed, and not pine for worlds that once were, for to live in memory alone destroys our chance for the only sane attitude in life, which is to live in hope.”

(David J. Wolpe, The Healer of Shattered Hearts, 138)

Hope is our only way forward and “the only sane attitude in life,” and it’s what Jeremiah offers in today’s old testament reading. 

 “The days will surely come,” says the Lord:
+ When I will fulfill the promise I made;
+ A righteous Branch will spring up; and
+ Justice and righteousness will be done in the land.

Those are big words from a man who is in prison, big words for a people who have been overrun, deported or occupied. They are words of hope but we have to be careful that we don’t misunderstand what hope is.

Hope is not passively waiting for God to show up and do something. That’s just wishful thinking or wishful praying. 

To live in hope means remaining open to the future and refusing to let the present moment close us in. It’s the belief that the future is always better, not because it necessarily will be, but because it might be. (Caputo, In Search of Radical Theology, 190) The future holds a potential or possibility for something more or better than the actual reality of the present moment. That’s our hope throughout the Season of Advent. 

Every time we live in hope we are trusting that “there is nothing too hard for [God]” (Jeremiah 32:17), and that “for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). 

Hope, however, is not something we have. It comes to us as a call asking for a response. 

Maybe that’s why, in today’s gospel (Luke 21:25-36), Jesus says, “Stand up and raise your heads.” Maybe that’s the response to hope’s call. When there are signs in the sun, moon, and stars; when there is distress among nations; when people are fainting from fear and foreboding of what is coming; when the powers of heaven are shaken; when it looks like things are getting worse “stand up and raise your heads.” 

“Stand up and raise your heads” when you want to run away. “Stand up and raise your heads” when you want to duck and hide. “Stand up and raise your heads” when you are tired and overwhelmed. “Stand up and raise your heads” when everything seems hopeless.

It is as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t just sit there. Do something. Get a new perspective. Look from a higher vantage point. Recognize what can be changed and then make the change.” That’s what it means to live in hope. More often than not that change is about us, not the circumstances. 

What if you and I are the righteous Branch God is causing to spring up? What if you and I are the ones to execute justice and righteousness in this land? What if you and I, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves today, were to stand up and raise our heads? I wonder what we would see. I wonder what hope would call us to be or do.

If you’re curious about that, “stand up and raise your heads.” Take a look at your life today, take a look at what is happening in the world, and then finish this sentence: “The days will surely come,” says the Lord, “when _____.”

What is the “when” you are hoping for today and what is it asking of you?

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