Last week, our twenty-seven year search finally came to an end. As of Thursday, we are in a new house that we actually own. (Our Bank would point out that I again use the term “we” loosely since they own most of the house!)
When I come to the story of Jeremiah’s home purchase in our Old Testament lesson, I bring that long history.
Now, Jeremiah’s paperwork was a good bit simpler than ours, and I am guessing his closing costs were less. But in broad terms the process of his purchase is familiar. Jeremiah exchanged money for a deed and had the deed recorded for posterity. Jeremiah had his secretary Baruch put the legal document in a pot that was supposed to protect it for many years.
What made Jeremiah’s purchase quite different from ours was the leap of faith involved.
Buying a new home is always a venture into the unknown to some degree, of course. That was part of what made it so hard for us. During all the years that we thought about buying a house, we could never bring ourselves to actually do it because we wanted to do the right thing, and we never knew for sure what the future would hold. For twenty seven years we waited because we wanted everything to come together so that we could be sure we were making the right decision.
We were bizarrely slow. But people do, and people should, think about their life situation before making what is, for most of us, the biggest financial decision we will ever make.
But that is not what Jeremiah does. NOTHING about Jeremiah’s future was secure when he bought this property.
First, Jeremiah was in prison, having been arrested on a charge of treason during a time of war. Many people wanted him dead. Jeremiah would have died but for the intervention of friends. That seems like an odd time to be thinking about a new home!
Add to that the situation of the nation as a whole. As our passage tells us, the Babylonians were besieging Jerusalem. That means they had already overrun the region of Benjamin, including the town where Jeremiah’s new home was located. Jeremiah was buying land in occupied territory. That seems like a bad investment!
It gets worse. The situation in Jerusalem was dire. People were starving. The Babylonians were on the verge of taking the city and would do so within a few months. When Jerusalem did fall, lots of people died. The Babylonians deposed the king and took the leading citizens into exile (2 Kings 25). Jeremiah knew all that was coming. Jeremiah’s prophecies about the coming destruction were what got him thrown into prison in the first place.
And still, in the midst of all that chaos, all that uncertainty, all that tumultuous and painful change, Jeremiah bought a home and took pains to ensure that his deed would be preserved. That seems like the action of a crazy man. So why did Jeremiah do it?
Jeremiah tells us. Jeremiah bought the land because he trusted in God. Jeremiah bought the land because he believed, despite the terrible danger they faced, that Israel had a future. Jeremiah bought the land because, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he really believed the promise of God in the final verse of our reading: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (32:15).
Jeremiah’s home purchase was also a prophetic sign. By purchasing a home with the Babylonians literally camped outside the city walls, Jeremiah demonstrated his faith to his people. And implied in Jeremiah’s prophetic sign was a challenge: do you trust God? Do you trust God, or do you choose to put your trust elsewhere?
We do not know if people rose to Jeremiah’s challenge. There is no evidence of a great religious revival. Probably the people of Jerusalem were close to despair. In so far as they trusted anything, it was probably the city walls and the army, such as it was.
But that is ancient history. How about us? Jeremiah’s act of faith challenges us too. Where do we put our trust?
As I look around at our country today, it does not appear that the answer is God.
Many people in the United States today seem more inclined to put their trust in money. Certainly lots of people seem more interested in making money than in doing God’s will.
Now, there is nothing wrong with money. I wish I had more of it! But money is a real temptation because money can so easily draw us away from trusting entirely in God. As the reading from Timothy says, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Our Gospel reading is a sharp warning about the perils of trusting in riches to the point that we ignore the human need all around us.
We wrestle with what that means for us as individual Christians and also as a community of faith. Our vestry met last week and, as always, we spent a fair amount of time going over our financial statements. I am happy to say that our vestry takes very seriously their responsibility for the financial well-being of our parish. They are careful with our money, as they should be.
But I am even prouder of the fact that our vestry recognizes that money is not, in fact, the bottom line, despite what people always say. Money is important. But God is our bottom line. It says it right there on our coins and bills. They are legal tender. But “in God we trust.”
The other tempting alternative to trusting God today is trusting in power. Like Jeremiah, if thankfully not to the same degree, we live in a violent world. Terrorist attacks like the bombings in New York and New Jersey last week get headlines. So do shootings in Tulsa. Less newsworthy but considerably more deadly is the epidemic of gun violence which kills thousands each year.
In a violent world, it is tempting to put our trust in power, in violence. But that was not Jeremiah’s way. That was not Jesus’ way.
So today here at Saint David’s we are participating in the “Concert Across America to End Gun Violence.” At locations all across the country, people are “Singing for Peace” as a way of saying publicly that violence is not God’s will for us, that God invites us to a better way, that we trust God even when it is scary.
We need money, of course. We need security, of course. But it is God we trust.
Only if we trust first in God can we truly answer God’s call, embrace God’s mission, live as God’s people in the world. Particularly in a world that sometimes seems to be forgetting about God, turning away from God and to money, or to violence, or to a host of other things, particularly in our world, we are called to follow Jeremiah’s lead, to put our faith in God, and to show our neighbors, in actions even more than in words, that God is trustworthy.
May we learn to trust. May we share our trust with others. In the name of the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.