The future’s not in the stars
At the Bible study preceding a midweek Lenten service at my church, one of the members offered a timeline of the story of the Bible (which he hoped to do in less than an hour). He concentrated his attention on a number of important events in God’s story.
He talked about creation; he reminded us that didn’t go so well. Later, he mentioned that in their new land, the people of Israel decided that they wanted to replace the judges that had guided them since and through the Exodus with kings like those of the other nations. That too didn’t go so well. And then there were the prophets, who often had to confront centralized power in the kingdom. During the time of the prophets, the nation of Israel ended up in exile.
Then John Buzza, the Bible study leader, reminded us that Jeremiah, before leaving on exile, did a funny thing. He bought land.
What a statement it is to the community of the faithful, following a defeat and as one is about to be shipped off away from the land that was definitional to the nation. Jeremiah bought land. He made an investment in his community for the sake of his people. (Jeremiah 32) He fulfilled, as a prophet, what he saw as a public obligation. He “saw the future.”
The public voice of the prophets
I see people of faith continuing to fulfill their public obligation today. It happens in many ways. Health care workers volunteer to take “vacations” in Haiti after the earthquake. Clergy and lay leaders write letters to, and sometimes even travel at their own expense to talk with, their members of Congress about programs that support widows and orphans, or that welcome immigrants and strangers in the land.
Like the prophet Nehemiah, these faith-based folks reweave the web of our society. They rebuild the walls of the city. They stake their present commitments on a future shalom.
They make a commitment to invest in a future that doesn’t make sense in the present. Unlike Thomas, who needed to see Jesus’ wounded hands to believe in a transformed reality, Jeremiah and his spiritual heirs are willing to act foolishly in the present out of a hope of what can follow faithfulness.
So, what would be a similar act of investment in our time? How can the community of the faithful “invest” in its communal future? What message of stability can be sent as assurance? The answers are not obvious, but these questions are certainly worthy of consideration by Lutheran congregations in this age.