Summary: Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001

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Year C Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany February 11th, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Title: ¡§Blessings and curses.¡¨

Jeremiah 17: 5-10

Even though all of Sacred Scripture is one and reveals the one God, it also reveals the diverse aspects of God¡¦s character as far as we can understand them. In the Old Testament there are three general categories whereby God reveals himself. He does do in history and so we have the ¡§Historical Books.¡¨ He does so in creation and secular life and so we have the ¡§Wisdom Books.¡¨ He does so in his unique interpretation of both the world and the words of humans and so we have the ¡§Prophetical Books.¡¨ Yet, these three types or general categories overlap and dovetail. This text is an example of a prophet speaking more in the tradition of the ¡§Wisdom¡¨ viewpoint- with its emphasis on the ¡§two ways,¡¨ ¡§blessings and curses,¡¨ reward and punishment,¡¨ creation imagery and themes rather than salvation language, personal reflection rather than national reform, living the good life well and quietly in daily living rather than celebrating the liturgy with integrity. None of these are mutually exclusive, but a matter of approach and emphasis. Thus, it may seem strange to us that a prophet of the fire and intensity of Jeremiah would sound so dreamily thoughtful and passive. This is the stuff of the Wisdom Tradition¡¦s approach to life that would apply in all ages and under all circumstances.

This text has a lot in common with Psalm 1. However, here the wicked are compared to a barren bush instead of chaff as in Psalm 1. Both would be used as teaching models for the young in their moral education and meditation models for those pursuing the path of wisdom. The passage breaks neatly into the curse of verses five and six and the blessing of verses seven and eight.

In verse five, ¡§cursed is the man who trusts in human beings¡¨: Blessings and curses are typically placed side by side, especially for comparison or contrast, in Wisdom Literature. This is not a wish, but a statement of an existing situation. The word for ¡§man¡¨ here is Hebrew geber, a word connoting power, prowess and youth as opposed to the more generic Hebrew word for man, ¡¥ish. The word translated as ¡§human beings¡¨ is the Hebrew, ¡¥adam. It means pretty much the same as ¡§flesh¡¨ in the next colon: human powers apart from and independent of God. This would include anything man-made: military, political, technological, economic, social or psychological.

Whose heart turns away from the Lord: This explains the meaning of both ¡§human beings¡¨ and ¡§flesh¡¨ in this verse.

In verse six, ¡§he is like a barren bush in the desert¡¨: The Hebrew word, `ar`ar, is the shrub, Juniper oxycedrus, (still called ¡§`ar`ar¡¨ in Arabic and presents a nice word play with the location ¡§in the desert¡¨ (in Hebrew, the Arabah, the area of the Jordan valley from the river proper south to the Gulf of Aqaba).

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