It’s a lot. The world is struggling with so much. It’s challenging, overwhelming, frustrating. There’s divisiveness, conflict, hurt, brokenness, anger. It’s a lot.
Communication seems to have been an early casualty and, for awhile now, relationships. While we ramped up social media, live streaming and platforms like Zoom and Skype, we also seemed to find dialogue becoming more acrimonious, defensive and divisive. Random acts of anger and bitterness seem to be overtaking kindness. And individuality seems to be trumping community. It’s a lot.
Jeremiah lived in a world with a lot going on. In his time, Judah was threatened by the Assyrians and Egyptians, conquered by the Babylonians, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed and many of its people sent to Babylon in exile. It was an era of difficult and violent transitions, religious and political upheaval and personal conflict. Jeremiah offered condemnation and lament about the Hebrew people’s relationship with God, but also words of hope.
Jeremiah encouraged the people to trust in God. He said that trusting in the things of this world, having power through armies and force and valuing stuff more than heart is like being a bush in an arid desert, a shrub in an arid an uninhabitable land. Trusting in God - the divine, the love, grace and spirit of life - is like being a tree planted by a river with deep roots that reach into the earth for water and nourishment. It grows and flourishes and doesn’t fear when the seasons change, because it is strong and connected to the life giving earth.
I think that’s a great way to describe what trust feels like. Connectedness that brings life and warmth and nourishment. It’s not just sustaining, but growing. Call it God, or Spirit or the life force or energy in all things, but trusting that is what brings life to our own spirit, our own hearts and minds.
That power is in all things. It’s easy enough to say that, even see that, when we talk about the creation around us, the seasons and the cycles of life in the world. But that same power is in me and you and in all the people we get along with and in all those we don’t, the people we call friends and the ones we might call enemies, the ones we “love” and the ones we “hate.”
Jesus, I believe, makes that point. Just like Jesus, we’re divine and human, created in the image of God (however you know God) and of the earth. Jesus tries to bring us back to God by revealing that divinity in each of us.
So, what if we understood trusting in God as trusting in God wherever God is - including each other? What if we could work through that connectedness of spirit, of the energy of life and love, that’s in each of us? What if we could employ the love that Paul wrote the Corinthians about, the love that’s patient and kind, envies no one and is not boastful or rude? Or dominating or selfish. What if we could just pause for a moment, take a breath, and seek out the connection of the spirit, rather than the self-oriented, self-important demands that divide us? Wouldn’t it be a place to start, a place of green, shady trees by a quiet stream, rather than a barren, desert wasteland.