Tuesday, September 21, 2010
a strange purchase
i get easily overwhelmed, actually (***warning: unnecessary tangent ahead***). for example, one time shannon asked me to buy some paint at home depot. this was a perfectly normal request and i handled perfectly normally until i actually entered the paint aisle(s). then i was bombarded with words like latex, gloss, matte, eggshell, indoor, outdoor, indoor/outdoor, flat, satin, semi-gl...oh my flipping gosh! there are too many options! they found me curled up in the fetal position on the cement floor of aisle 37 at home depot, clutching hand fulls of paint chips. it wasn't pretty. (over the loudspeaker: can we get an associate to aisle 37 for a, um, situation?)
i'm not even good at ordering food at a restaurant. just too many options. so you can imagine how it feels to look through book after book of houses for sale. so many options. and then there's the question of when is it a good time to buy? so many experts have so many different opinions, it becomes confusing to know who to listen to.
it's with that kind of background about the prospect of buying property that i approach the text i'll be preaching on this week. it's a passage from jeremiah, in which the prophet makes a really questionable decision. he decides to buy some land. which, on the surface of the thing, doesn't seem all that dubious, but when you consider that the land he buys is about to be besieged by a great army of babylonians, who are about to take the land as their own, sending the israelites to foreign lands in exile, it becomes a bit more of an eyebrow-raiser. and by eyebrow-raiser i mean a really stupid move. i could see if you bought the land a month before the siege, not knowing the babylonians were on the way. that would just be exceptionally bad luck. but that's not what happens in jeremiah 32. the dude knows the army is coming, that the land is about to be burned and pillaged and spat upon, so to speak. he knows that he will likely end up in a prison or camp somewhere, forced to bow to some other God and dream about his homeland. and as one final act before he leaves, he buys some land. and he not only buys it, he goes to great extremes to show that he is following the letter of the law here, making it quite public and quite the production. it's as if he wants everyone to know that he is making this strange purchase.
why? i mean, if it were me, i would probably be curled up on the stone floor of the courtyard, in the fetal position chanting "the babylonians are coming, the babylonians are coming." i am hopeless. but not jeremiah. he is quite the opposite: full of hope. and not just any hope, but the kind of hope that puts its money right where its mouth is. he doesn't just say, "hey guys, everything will be alright...just wait and see." no, he does more than talk. he actually writes a huge check to buy a piece of land that is about to be taken from him, and he makes sure to show everyone how he is putting the deed in a safety-deposit box because he wants them to know that he will one day be needing that deed again. he is saying, in one defiant, subversive, insane act: "hope is not lost! we will be back again!"
and so as i am studying this text this week and thinking about how it preaches, i'm asking for your help. how does this apply, in your opinion, to our lives today? are we called to such hope? do we have it? if so, how can we demonstrate it? how would you apply this crazy story to your own life of faith?