We’re still here
Jeremiah 31: 7-14 (NRSVA)
7 For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labour, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.
Humans aren’t generally content to stay in one place. If that place is a sofa and has a steady supply of doughnuts it’s tempting but, by and large, we like to ramble. We get bored, restless, curious, itchy. Humanity has hardly stayed still — travelling to almost every corner and climate and carving out a niche. We love to roam. But perhaps there’s something we love even more.
Again and again in the Bible and across all of global culture from wee folktales to epic sagas, from gripping boxsets to multiplex blockbusters, from the Moon landings to the story of how Sandra got lost trying to find the big TK Maxx… we just love stories of journey and return.
Perhaps we like to ramble so much because it means we get to return. We love to see and then make it back to tell the tale. But sometimes leaving isn’t a choice, we have no option — we simply have to. ‘Here’ is a luxury we can no longer afford and we must set our sights on ‘there’.
Taking the longview we humans have had a tendency from time to time to screw things up, to get lost and not be able to find our way back… but we also have a certain irrepressible spirit. We are the comeback kids of the universe. We have an uncanny ability to make it back alive — to escape, or outwit our fate. We’re still here aren’t we?
This passage in Jeremiah is a timeless vision of return and renewal. After this last year of isolation and restriction do these words not make the heart sing? Homecoming, reconciliation, dancing, merrymaking — priests having their fill of fatness! Who wouldn’t want their fill of fatness?
Sign me up for my fill of fatness. With chips.
These ancient words point the way to a God who cares deeply about us. A God who really gets us. A God of return, of home, of reunion — a God who knows what it is to set out and return. Our God.
Dear Returner of All,
We know we have to ‘go there to come back’
But we sincerely want to get back
back to the future
your future that finds the seeds of flourishing already hidden below the surface,
a place where we can all get our fill of fatness.