Jeremiah 2: 4-13 (NRSVA)
4 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
6 They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?’
7 I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.
9 Therefore once more I accuse you,
says the Lord,
and I accuse your children’s children.
10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
that can hold no water.
This reading ends with a startling image. God’s people have rejected the fountain of life and instead are found scrabbling around, digging out their own cisterns. God’s way of life has been rejected for shabby alternatives that can’t suffice. Cracked, mottled cisterns. They don’t hold water. The word that comes to mind is ‘dank’ a word that feels almost onomatopoeic, like it sounds, like the plink of a leaking drop hitting a hard surface: ‘dank’.
Our God is generous, but sometimes we reject God’s gifts and make our own shabby, dank alternatives.
Sometimes God gives us wisdom or resources and we use them to lord it over others — chipping away at the very wisdom and resources we have been given.
We must ask God for forgiveness when we exchange glory for things that are worthless. But we can cherish also that we are not abandoned to our cistern digging.
I am a broken vessel,
a cracked cistern,
I am not sound
I am not resolute
I do not hold water
and yet the water keeps coming
sometimes I feel it flooding
and sometimes I feel only just enough
I am cracked
but not cracked in two.
My flaws mean I can’t hold water,
I’m not watertight
and yet the water keeps coming.
It never runs completely dry.
what they can,
take them from the cistern I’m digging
and lead me to the fountain.