Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
Psalm 84:1-6 (84:1-7 NRSV)
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
This week's texts speak of prayer and worship in their many perspectives. The people of Judah lament, knowing that their repeated sins have brought on a crushing drought. The psalmist reflects on the joy of worship, when the faithful, traveling through the desert to Zion, are bathed in springs of cool water. Paul speaks of the crown of righteousness given with faith. Jesus tells a prayer parable about our relationship with God and with others.
What you are reading at harvest time I am writing during planting season, a period of abundant spring rain. Over Sunday dinner, the farmers wonder if even this much rain will be enough, and then the talk turns to other, drier years. "We prayed so hard for rain," they said. "Really, really prayed, harder than you can imagine, Pastor!" And they are right. Those of us with lifetimes in the city and suburbs, where abundant produce, bright flowers, and fat green grass are as easy as securing a parcel of dirt and hooking up a garden hose--we can't imagine drought and its desperate partner, prayer, for we live a far cry from the reality of the browned fields, the acres of short dried ears of corn or empty bean pods, and the bare cupboards and thin wallets that come from a summer with no rain.
Visualizing all this, hear anew the frenzied pleas of the ancients during their time of drought. They believe the covenantal curse from Deut 28:22, "The LORD will afflict you with consumption, fever, inflammation, with fiery heat and drought, and with blight and mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish." They also believe the covenantal promise. And so, after they cry out to God in anger, "Does your heart loathe Zion?" (Jer 14:19), they confess, "We have sinned against you" (v. 20); and then they pray for salvation, "Remember, and do not break your covenant with us.... We set our hope on you!" (vv. 21-22).
From these pained drought pleas, we move to the confident, joyful worship of the psalmist, thought to be celebrating the October harvest-time Feast of Booths. During this festival, the Hebrews dwelled in booths or tabernacles made of branches, which symbolized God's protection during their wilderness travels. Hear the words of joy, happiness, and praise at being in the presence of and being at home with God. Soul, heart, flesh; sparrow, swallow--all desire to dwell in the house of the LORD.
And once again, water is a blessing...