This is my least favorite sermon title in my short time preaching at FLCC, but sometimes it's necessary to move forward. It's more important to focus on content than title, though it's not an excuse for a lame title. If I have to make a trade off, I will trade a title for good content.
Jeremiah 3: 15-18
As I am studying this text and the theologians with their comments on the text, I am drawn to the disposable nature of the Ark of the Covenant as an image for Israel's communal life. Verse 16 is specific: " And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the Lord." It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made (NRSV)."
There is not much disposable in the life of the Church. At least in my experience. Churches are some of the worst pack rats I have ever witnessed. Churches don't end up becoming visible hoarders because they build bigger buildings, or they I have seen 70 year old bank statements in some churches. I have seen 40 year old confirmation cirricula, reel to reel tape recorders, piles of broken/unused Christmas lights, old prints of Jesus stacked in dusty storage closets, cheap old knives in a church kitchen that I get away with running across my jugular for vein, and books no one will ever read piled up in rarely-updated libraries. At some point, these images and tools carried great power--but now they are collecting dust and taking up real estate. People have this weird sense that anything and everything associated with the Church needs to be PERMANENT. I think this notion is a sick brew of Great Depression-thinking hyper frugality and an implicit application of Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, for ever." Does the application of this verse mean that 70 year old church bank statements need to be saved because they are somehow linked to the unchanging Jesus by osmosis?
Things I have learned from this text:
1. Some images/things in our Christian lives are enduring: the Cross, the Lutheran Confessions, Baptism, Holy Communion, etc. Everything else can pass away and be changed. Church newsletters are not sacred. Sermons on cassette tapes or VHS are not sacred. Luther League is not sacred. Even congregations themselves are not sacred in and of themselves. Nor is a denomination.
2. It is God who is with you in the transition, not the symbol, tool, mission statement or mechanism. It is God who guides us. We are human, we take up time and space, we cannot always deal in the abstract. We need tangible, we need focus in order to act. The Ark of the Covenant was disposable. What needs to be thrown away?
According to Von Rad, the end of the Ark in Jeremiah 3 reveals that there is little unity to Old Testament themes other than it's focus on Yahweh. Many images and theologies come and go, such as whether a monarchy is good or bad...the throne of God changes from the Ark to Jerusalem.
Upon further study of this text--I am going to resonate with one of the students at The Buzz the other night who said in response to the statements about "forgetting the ark" in Jeremiah that something is coming that is better. The journals I read talk about a new alliance between the Northern and Southern Kingdom: Israel and Judah with Jerusalem being the new throne of Yahweh.
Important points of a Sound Transition
1. Find honor for the stuff that is really important (it's not everything)
2. Celebrate where God has been with you, dream about where God will take you, remember God is with you on the twisting and bumpy road ahead.
3. Something new is at work
4. The power of God to gather in Word, Sacrament, relationships