The reading for this Sunday is Jeremiah 23:15 – 32, set at the time the court priests were making optimistic predictions for the rulers, getting their favour, and encouraging decisions Jeremiah saw as wrong. This passage was presented by Jeremiah as a severe scolding of all those who claimed they were saying what God had told them to say. The Church historically has frequently made proclamations about God’s will that, in hindsight, had almost nothing to do with what God wanted, and often contradicted the actions and teachings of Jesus. One factor in the current decline of the Church is the recognition by many that it was often speaking on its own behalf when it claimed to be speaking on God’s behalf. Of course, it is a bit like a scientist saying that 50% of what he believes about the work of nature is wrong, but he does not know which 50%.
This theme of truth or fantasy plays out in many ways today in the Church and elsewhere in society. Fantasy, or wishful thinking, often has us making claims that have little substance and ignoring harsh realities. Many congregations decided that they just needed to do what they do better in order to grow as congregations, sort of like buggy manufacturers trying to stay in business by improving the quality of their product. The world changed dramatically in the late 60s, and churches and institutions are still trying to figure out what happened. Businesses that did not see the change are mostly out of business now.
The harsh message in Jeremiah is that, if we refuse to see what is happening or what God is doing, we are toast. If we make false claims about God’s will, it will be even worse for us. Now is a critical time to really see what God is doing and how the world is changing. Our openness to what is will open the doors to new possibilities. Our refusal to see what is will seal our coffins.