A sermon preached on September 25, 2022 by Dr. Patrick H. Wrisley
Sometimes, God has us do things that just don’t make a lot of sense. This is the first word I must say in regard to this morning’s scripture from the lectionary. Turn in your Bible to Jeremiah 32:1-3, 6-15. As you’re turning there, let me give you some context.
Jeremiah was known as the Weeping Prophet because frankly, almost all of his prophecies were of the gloom and doom variety. He foretold how the Lord God, because of Judah’s rampant lust to pursue foreign gods and flagrant disregard of the covenant made with Moses, was going to let the Babylonians lay siege against the city of Jerusalem and take her people into exile.
The regular folks looked at Jeremiah as we would look at a street corner preacher carrying a sign that said, “The end is near! Are you ready?” The political establishment was grossly annoyed at Jeremiah and were tired of his constant complaining about the spiritual and ethical state of things in the southern kingdom of Judah. The king of Judah at this time is Zedekiah. With respect to Jeremiah? He’s not a fan. Not only did Jeremiah stir up angst among the people of the city, Jeremiah was thrown into jail because he dared to tell the king in affect, “Listen, the city is going to fall and you, O king, will be taken prisoner of war and marched down to Babylon and await for whatever punishment the Lord God has waiting for you.” These are not the words that will endear yourself to those in charge.
The year is is thought to be 588 years before the time of Jesus and at the time of Jeremiah’s prophecy, the Babylonians were building siege mounds up against the walls of Jerusalem. In antiquity, an attacking force would build up earthen works that built a giant ramp up to the top of a city’s walls so the opposing army could march up the ramp and take charge of the city literally from the top down. This is what was happening to Jerusalem at that moment. The siege works were under construction and Jeremiah was held prisoner in the King Zedekiah’s palace court. Listen to the Word of the Lord and see if it makes any sense to you.
32.1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2At 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, 3where 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…
6Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7Hanamel 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.”
8Then 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.
9And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and 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. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus 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. 15For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.[i]
Let’s make this real: You are hunkered down in Kiev listening to the explosions around you caused by Putin’s missiles. In the midst of the bombardment, you decide to buy from a relative a piece of land in eastern Ukraine that is already under Russian occupation. This relative of yours sneaks through enemy lines and come to see you in Kiev with the offer. So, with the sounds of war all around you, you gather some cash, a notary public, and several witnesses to watch and back-up what is taking place. You then give the signed deed and bill of sale to a trusted colleague and friend for safekeeping.
Now, just ask yourself, “Does it make any sense to do a land sale in the middle of siege warfare for a plot of ground behind enemy lines?” You would think there are other issues more pressing as a result of the shelling. Those around you are scratching their heads as the earth shakes from the bombardment, “What the heck are you doing?”
Friends, what are we to make of this Story? This Story reminds us, Church, how we as people and as a community of faith respond to chaotic times. It’s a Story that beckons us to look for the presence of God in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. It’s a Story that reminds us we are to share our Story for the sake of the Church that has yet to be born.
It’s a Story that beckons us to look for the presence of God in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.In 1946, renowned Austrian psychologist and prisoner of war Viktor Frankl who being held in Auschwitz, wrote a memoir about his experiences in that horrible Nazi concentration camp during WWII. Surrounded by brutality and death all around him, Frankl was reduced to trying to make sense of the suffering and asked the existential question: In the midst of the sea of suffering around him, he began looking at how do people get their sense of meaning and purpose from?
Frankl believed you and I get our meaning from three places: Purposeful work, love, and courage in the face of despair. He noted that every person, every single day, has an opportunity to make a purposeful decision to determine whether or not he or she capitulates and gives up to whatever is trying to rob of us of our personal sense of self. I am so mindful of what my wife Kelly taught me and the girls throughout her life. “I can let cancer and heart failure define me and who I am, or I can choose to define what cancer and heart failure is to me.” She never let her illness define who she was a wife, mother, sister, friend, and woman of God.
Viktor Frankl says it this way: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Jeremiah chose to hear God’s voice in the midst of war and chaos in order to declare a word of hope to a hopeless despairing people whose city was about to taken by the enemy. In order to communicate that sense of hope, Jeremiah bought land to keep it in the family and to show God is not done with us yet. He knew he would never see the plot of land he purchased. But he made sure his secretary and assistant Baruch kept the deeds in a safe location for the future because God promises, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land” (vs. 15).
The late British Old Testament historian, Ronald Clements, noted about our text, “All the more significant therefore was Jeremiah’s concern to ground hope on a deeper and more lasting foundation (than wishful thinking). Hope was no longer the short-lived possibility of averting or postponing disaster, but rather (hope is) a discovery that there was no disaster that could take away a hope founded on God.” In other words, our hope comes from beyond ourselves and crashes into our lives as the “word from the Lord.” Our hope is grounded in the sovereign, gracious heart of God and bestowed to us as a gift. We are to be aware of the fact that it is the Spirit of God that births the hope within us that we know that we know that we know that the power of the Holy Trinity has our future held gingerly in Its hand. Hope acknowledges that we live in between the already and the not yet and that in the end, regardless of what assails us, we are God’s beloved and we know God holds our hand when we walk through the turbulent waters and the fire; we shall not drown or be burned by fire, because as Isaiah reminds us,
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Yet, beloved, our text not only reminds us of how we find meaning in troubled times, but it reminds us of that we each have a duty to share that hope and entrust it to a new generation. Jeremiah entrusted the land’s bill of sale and deed to Baruch for safe keeping. Jeremiah knew he would not see the restoration of Israel, but he wanted to share hope with the following generations of Jews to remind them of God’s faithfulness.
The question that haunts me and is the same question that I want to haunt you is this: Who am I leaving this deeded word of hope to so they will know and experience God’s faithfulness as I have? Yes, the world and church in America feel like they are getting sucked down a drain, but do communicate to those around us? Do we show our children, our grandchildren, our community that we are throwing our hands up in despair or capitulation, or do we point out God’s presence in the unexpected and help others learn how to see and experience hope-full grace?
Think, Church, and reflect Beloved, and ask yourself, “Can I look for hope given by God in the midst of today’s swirliness?” And then ask yourself, “Who is my Baruch? How am I passing the faith and certainty of God’s hope to a future generation?” In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
 See https://www.themarginalian.org/2013/03/26/viktor-frankl-mans-search-for-meaning/. Accessed on 9/23/2022.
 R.E. Clements, Jeremiah, Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988), 195. Words in parentheses were added by me for rhetorical purposes.
 Isaiah 41:10