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First Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-29

23Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” 26How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal.28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

From my colleague and friend Phil Heinze (Living the Lectionary)

The dreaming prophets were good at prophesying pleasantries to the people because the truth would not have been well received. Jeremiah didn't fit the profile of the prophet dream team because the Lord had placed him in the unenviable place of speaking truth to power and most of the time Jeremiah appeared to be the one God had forsaken.

But while God may have appeared far off it was the people who were uninterested and disengaged from the God who had always remained near-by.

Of course, Jeremiah was vindicated when the bad news he proclaimed came true and the dreaming prophets and the people put to sleep by their lies woke up to the nightmare of the Babylonian captivity.

Not a happy story but then that’s why Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet.

So, what lesson might we learn from a sad story? I suppose one possibility is to double down on the law and preach morality to avoid the wrath of a near-by hammer come down God.

Another might be to bet the bank on the Gospel and preach the dream of a near-by God whose righteous fire doesn't really burn.

But if you are a prophet of the Lutheran persuasion the truth is in the waking dream where the Law is not diminished, and the Gospel is not neglected but working in concert they reveal the God far off come near in Christ Jesus.

Which means we strive to preach and teach a moral life that takes sin seriously and at the same time recognize the only way one can be fully moral is to obey the law of love which always counts relationship with the sinner as the way one lives God’s dream.

Living the law of love. I really like that idea. That maybe, just maybe the law isn’t a list of dos and don’ts, but an opportunity to look beyond self and love God and neighbor.

Let us pray: Almighty God, help us to follow the greatest commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love the neighbor as ourselves. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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