Sunday school lesson for the week of September 21, 2014
By Rev. John Brantley
Lesson scripture: Jeremiah 32:1-17
1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3 where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, "Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; 4 King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; 5 and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the Lord; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?" 6 Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7 Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours." 8 Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself." Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 9 And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11 Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12 and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard.13 In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. 16 After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying: 17 Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. [NRSV]
Focus: Investing in the place of God’s faithfulness.
This year, at the age of 50, I had the first opportunity to both sell and buy a home. There are so many details, inspections, negotiations, reports, forms and disclosures that it makes the process intimidating and weary. In our passage today, Jeremiah is buying property in a down economy with political upheaval, and it sounds like the process of securing a deed was no less a struggle than it is today. Yet, Jeremiah was making a faith statement. For he is not certain that he will ever live on this land, but that generations of God’s people will. He is securing for a future generation something that is anything but a benefit to him personally.
We need to appreciate all those who have made possible the many facilities and properties that make ministry possible where we live and serve: children’s homes, geriatric facilities, urban and rural centers of support, retreats and camps, churches, schools, and seminaries, to name a few. Now Jeremiah records this faith-purchase in a clay jar and in the tradition of the prophet’s writings so that folks will remember God’s promise to restore and renew the place of faithfulness.
What are the places of faithfulness that are barren or pre-occupied today? It is hard to drive past businesses that you know were built for one purpose when end, and three others have followed and now it is boarded up. Why would anyone see this as investment property after the population has shifted to new parts of different districts and communities?
The heart of the passage is that Jeremiah will not let go of God’s purpose even though every other structure is torn down, burned and taken away. The prophet invests in what will be, even when it does not appear to be fiscally sound because it is soundly for God presence the land is claimed.
Homework: Look around your community. Where is God absent and what can you do this week to begin to secure a stronghold for God in your neighborhood? What happens if you don’t invest? Who will?
Prayer: God, give me eyes of hope to see your vision. Give me courage to use the resources I have for you and your work even if I do not see the fulfillment in my lifetime nor get a brass plaque for having given.
Rev. John Brantley is pastor of Rock Springs UMC in the North Georgia Conference. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.