The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (Year C, Proper 24), October 20, 2013


A Reading from the Book of Jeremiah (31:27-34)


The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.



Psalm (119:97-104)


97   Oh, how I love your law! *

       all the day long it is in my mind.

98   Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies, *

        and it is always with me.

99    I have more understanding than all my teachers, *

        for your decrees are my study.

100  I am wiser than the elders, *

        because I observe your commandments.

101  I restrain my feet from every evil way, *

         that I may keep your word.

102  I do not shrink from your judgments, *

         because you yourself have taught me.

103  How sweet are your words to my taste! *

         they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

104  Through your commandments I gain understanding; *

        therefore I hate every lying way.



 A Reading from the Second Letter of Paul to Timothy (3:14-4:5)


As for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.



The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (18:1-8)


Jesus told [the disciples] a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”






by Jennifer Oldstone-Moore


The day is surely coming when the land will be desolated; when crops will be plucked up, buildings will be broken down; the day is surely coming that the people will be overthrown, destroyed, their bodies and hearts will be broken; the day is surely coming.


The day is surely coming for the people of Judah. Since I joined you at St. Mark’s in early September we have been hearing Jeremiah’s increasingly desperate message of warning to his people that if they mess around with false gods, and if they continue their injustice, their cruelty, their inhumaneness to others, they will be destroyed—their homeland shattered, their hearts will be broken.


Yet even before they are broken, in the midst of this searing message, comes a sign that the people will be restored to the land; a stunning assertion of God’s enduring love and commitment to a wayward and self-destructive people. In the midst of the prophesy of inevitable plucking up, breaking down, being overthrown and destroyed, comes the promise of restoration and reconciliation. God will restore not only land and livelihood, but the very hearts of the people. These days are surely coming, says the Lord.


The summary of the law that God gave God’s people is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is not just the people of Judah in the time of Jeremiah who have forgotten God and forgotten the commandments—it seems to be a constant of human history. I was reading about the Great Depression, and about a reporter who had gone to live with sharecroppers. He felt the despair at the broken lives and the broken hearts, not only of those who live in poverty, but of those who live alongside it, whose actions cause it, those who chose to disregard that suffering. He wondered how a people can be “civilized” if they—if we—live our lives in a way that puts others in a terrible situation? How can we call ourselves civilized if we need others to be disadvantaged so that we can live our lives of privilege? [1]


I don’t think that things have changed that much in substance since the Depression, although perhaps they’ve changed in scale. In 2013 we face the largest gap between the rich and the poor in more than a hundred years and it continues to grow; children in this very county need help to have underwear and socks; the food pantries are running out, and we have a system that makes it difficult for many hardworking people to earn a living wage. Our country is still haunted by the curse of racism. My inexpensive clothes and food are cheap because of the hard work of field hands, and of factory workers in foreign countries who are paid a pittance. And we see in our own time and place what Jeremiah saw in his: when we who have been saved by God from bondage and slavery, move to enslave others, our very teeth are set on edge and we will pay the price with greed and fear, and with anger, and with shattered cities, desolate countrysides, and broken lives.


In his message of hope, Jeremiah says that the day is surely coming that God’s law will be inscribed on our hearts. “I will put my Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (31:34) Jeremiah prophesies that people will not even need to teach each other anymore, so deeply rooted will God’s law of justice, righteousness, and mercy be inscribed. And even more amazing: God has chosen to be prepared to forget: “For I will forgive their iniquities/ And remember their sins no more.” (31:34)


What a stunning statement, right in the midst of a litany of divine hurt, betrayal, rage, and the foreshadowed wrath and destruction!


What does it mean to us to have this law inscribed on our hearts? I think in part it means to feel outrage over the state of the world, and to feel the call to respond. This is a revelation to me! I get so sick and tired of the same old problems, things I know are wrong—and I find it comforting that very sense that there is wrong is the seed of faith. We see the effect of this inscribed law in the story of the insistent widow in the Gospel lesson today, the widow who harasses the unjust judge until he responds to her call for justice. We are told that THIS is faith: to speak and act again, and again, and again, unrelentingly, in the face of persistent injustice. We see faith everyday in the actions of those who work and protest for justice, righteousness, and peace. We see it the work of this church, in the piles of socks and underwear, and the pallets of food, and in the many outreach efforts.


One of the great workers for justice among the poor and oppressed in our own time was Archbishop Oscar Romero. Romero had come to his radical critique of the powers-that-be through his own broken heart, inscribed with the love for God and neighbor. This broken world and his broken heart made him embrace a life of radical pestering, advocating, nagging, for justice. He relentlessly petitioned his own government, pestered then-President Jimmy Carter, and pleaded with Pope John Paul II. He nagged and pestered until he was murdered, with the approval of his own government, while in the act of elevating the chalice during communion.

Romero wrote something remarkable about our messy broken lives and hearts and this call to justice. He says:

“What a terrible thing to have lived quite comfortably, with no suffering, not getting involved in problems, quite tranquil, quite settled, with good connections politically, economically, socially—lacking nothing, having everything. (this part actually precedes the sentence) Those who, in the biblical phrase, would save their lives—that is, those who want to get along, who don’t want commitments, who don’t want to get into problems, who want to stay outside of a situation that demands the involvement of all of us—they will lose their lives.” [2]


In the midst of our broken world, desolated hearts, in the midst of lawlessness and unrighteousness, we are called and loved and forgiven and our sins forgotten. We find that our broken hearts are hearts inscribed with the very Law of God, the same God who has chosen to forget and forgive our sins, and the God who bids us to go forth into the world rejoicing—feeding the poor—railing against injustice. So we know what Jeremiah knew: The day is surely coming when the land will be desolated and the day is surely coming when the animals and humans will repopulate the land; crops will be plucked up and they will planted, buildings will be broken down and built up; the day is surely coming that the people will be overthrown, destroyed, their bodies and hearts will be broken; and the day is surely coming that the people shall be restored with the covenant that is inscribed on our broken hearts: The day is surely coming that we will once more know that God is our God, and we shall be the people of God. The day is surely coming.



[1] “A civilization which for any reason puts a human life at a disadvantage; or a civilization which can exist only by putting human life at a disadvantage; is worthy neither of the name nor of continuance.  And a human being whose life is nurtured in an advantage which has accrued from the disadvantage of other human beings, and who prefers that this should remain as it is, is a human being by definition only, having much more in common with the bed bug, the tapeworm, the cancer, and the scavengers of the deep sea.”James Agee, “Cotton Tenants, Three Families” quoted in NYRB, Vol LX, No 17,Nov 7, 2013.


[2] Note to self:  this quote is Romero’s take on the Luke 16:19-31 parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, which is paired with Jeremiah’s consolation from ch 32 that is just a few weeks before this lection.  I got this from Inward/Outward, Oct 13, 2013; the quote may come from The Violence of Love, compiled and translated by James R. Brockman, (The Plough Press, 2011), 142.