The Revised Common Lectionary (Year C) has just embarked on a two-month journey through the life and writings of Jeremiah. Since this is a significant amount of time to spend with one biblical author, I decided it was time for an introduction to all this.
Jeremiah is one of the hardest books to read, for two reasons. First, it’s wicked depressing. Jeremiah is often nicknamed the “weeping prophet” because he had the unenviable task of preaching a message of surrender and destruction to the Judean court. There are some beautiful moments of hope and promise in Jeremiah’s writings – some of which are among the most memorable prophecies of the New Covenant to come – but the vast majority is a long string of judgment and doom, sadness and gloom.
The second thing that makes Jeremiah’s book difficult to read is its formatting – or lack thereof. In our post-Enlightenment culture we like to organize things pretty intensely, and the book of Jeremiah is not organized the way we’d like it. It’s not chronological according to its original writing, it’s not chronological even according to its compiling, and it’s only vaguely organized by topics. Much ink has been spilled as scholars try to figure it out, but no real consensus has emerged. So here’s a very basic outline of the book:
2-6: Repentance & Judgment
7-20: Covenant Broken & Laments
21-22: Concerning Kings
23-29: True vs. False Prophecy
30-33: “Book of Comfort”
34-38: Kings Zedekiah & Jehoiakim
39-45: Jerusalem’s Last Days
46-51: Oracles vs. the Nations
The lectionary takes us through the writings of Jeremiah (including his separate book of Lamentations) in a slightly-more-chronological manner. Paired with my planned sermon titles, here is what we’ve got to look forward to at Grace Anglican on Sunday mornings:
1 Sept. [MP] = Jeremiah 2:4-13 God’s people have forsaken him
8 Sept. [MP] = Jeremiah 18:1-11 We are clay in God’s hands
15 Sept. [HE] = Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28 Creation is undone by sin
22 Sept. [MP] = Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 God weeps for sinners
29 Sept. [HE] = Jeremiah 32:1-15 Life goes on despite disaster
6 Oct. [MP] = Lamentations 1:1-6 Mourning & Hope
13 Oct. [HE] = Jeremiah 29:1-9 How to live in exile
20 Oct. [MP] = Jeremiah 31:27-34 God will replant & rebuild
MP = Morning Prayer service; HE = Holy Eucharist service
So brace yourselves: the fall of Judah is nigh, and the Babylonians are coming! And Jeremiah will be there to speak God’s word before, during, and after this great calamity.