Our sermon series on Jeremiah places us at the feet of a preacher who is a bronze wall, an iron barrier to the rebellious unbelief of his own people. His 52 chapters, though home to some of the most comforting passages of the Scriptures, thunders against the thankless congregation of Judah.
We tend to think of the Old Testament prophets as fusty old men, too worked up and uptight about the sins of their times.
What we too often fail to see is God’s grace, His undeserved love in calling them and us to repentance at all. Our Father would not have us perish. He sent His Son into this world as the very Bread of Life that we might never hunger and never thirst, that our deepest needs might be filled and our deepest longings might be satisfied. Into a bad news world He has sent the best news ever heard – that His Son became for us what we could not be, and did for us what we could not do, and paid for us what we could not pay.
What if there were people who were not interested in this good news? What if they routinely took it for granted, even despised it? What if they figured it would be there when they wanted it?
What if it were all taken away? Not just the funerals and weddings which even non-attending church members expect as their due – but the Sunday morning worship, the preaching and the sacraments which are always there whether many care or not?
What if there were no Sunday schools, no Christian elementary schools, no Christian high schools, no colleges and seminary to prepare the pastors and teachers of tomorrow, no pulpits where the pure word of God still sounded forth a clear trumpet call to repentance and faith?
What if there were a disaster that sucked all the oxygen out of the room – something like another 9/11 – and suddenly tears flowed, flags flew, people sang songs about the Statue of Liberty shaking her fist – and what if, amid all this emotion, church attendance soared, hymns went up to God? What if these same people soon started feeling like their old selves again, and then forgot the solemn meeting of their souls with God? What if church attendance dropped not only back down, but far below what it was? What if people lost their appetite for the Word of God?
What if the churches that did remain, even those wearing the Lutheran label, became vast wastelands of doctrinal indifference where golden calves and gay marriages were legitimized? What if, as the prophet Amos once warned, a famine ravaged the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water or a lack of jobs – but a famine of hearing God’s word? What if God said, “You don’t want to hear My word – so, verily, thou shalt not!” What if Christ shook the dust from His feet and moved on?
What if all of the “what if’s” hit home? What if we knelt before God in wonder that we have been set apart as God’s own in the gospel waters of baptism, drenched in the blood of the Lamb, showered with His promises, tasting the same body and blood that touched the lips of apostles and martyrs, and given the sacred Scriptures in our own language?
Christ’s promise still holds true for each of us: “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
What if we finally said from our hearts: “We’ve never had it so good!”