Hello Darkness My Old Friend Jeremiah 2: 4-13 Rev. Megan Cochran Lake View Presbyterian Church

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1 Hello Darkness My Old Friend Jeremiah 2: 4-13 Rev. Megan Cochran Lake View Presbyterian Church I am going to keep it real with you all this morning and begin by telling you that this scripture reading today is hard. It just is. It s hard to read. It s hard to hear. It is harsh and intense. You know, on one of the last summer days it might be nice to just get a softball thrown your way... but, I m sorry to say that is not happening today. On Friday night the youth group got together (more on that later). A few of us were here early waiting for everyone else to arrive. So, I excitedly asked, Who wants to hear the scripture for Sunday? Crickets which is fair. Not many people on a Friday night would be like, Yeah, let s read scripture and help our pastor with the sermon! But, after I asked three more times sounding more and more excited each time the youth agreed. I read the scripture. And again crickets. And let me tell you this is not an insult to these youth. This is telling us something about the text. Finally one of the wise adult leaders of the group said, Well, that text is going to take a lot of exegesis. Exegesis for those of you that don t know is like the seminary word for interpreting a text. And boy was he right. So, I m going to ask something of you all right of the bat. Keep it real with me. Stick with me. This text is hard, really hard. In fact, I even went as far as saying that I definitely, absolutely did not like this text at all at the beginning of the week. It s true people; your pastors do not like everything about the Bible. But, by the end of the week, I really, really loved this text. In fact, I may add it to my list of favorites. So, stick with me, I don t think you ll regret it. Jeremiah was a prophet in some hard times. Well, actually the times weren t that hard, but the messages he had to deliver were hard. There was a new king and things were actually pretty peaceful during this time. But, in all of this peacefulness some people just quit practicing

2 their faith. They had made it through the wilderness. They were no longer slaves. They were settled in a new land. So, now they just wanted to live their lives. But, the problem is that they just kind of forgot about God and where they came from. So, Jeremiah gets a call and is supposed to tell the people, Listen you better get back in this covenant, Judah, otherwise I see some not good things happening for you all. And sometimes, like in our text for today, Jeremiah is literally speaking for God. And this is where it gets rough. This isn t just some guy talking, saying some stuff he thinks is important. This is someone who God has called to be a truth teller. So, we are told that the passage for today is actually coming from God through Jeremiah. And this passage is God putting the people of Judah on trial. Look at all of this good I have done and you just forget about me, asks God. And it gets harder friends, because God isn t just asking these really painful questions, God is actually accusing the people of Judah. In fact, this text is written in the same way that an argument in a court of law would have been written in this time period. So, God is literally putting the people on trial. And right at the beginning it got me. I almost threw my Bible when I read this part: 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? Whew. God must be really hurt to be saying things like this, right? But, instead of just getting mad, I got curious. Because, I know in this text God is angry and hurt, but God doesn t think anyone is worthless, right? That just can t be.

3 So, I did some digging. And the Hebrew word used here is hebel. 1 Now, you could interpret this as worthless, I suppose. But, I probably wouldn t have made that choice. Some other choices for what this word might mean are words like empty and vapor. 2 Or I even found someone who translated it as wind. 3 So, let s try these on and see how that might change the meaning of this sentence and maybe it will give us some insight into this whole passage: Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after empty things, and became empty themselves? or how about this Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after the blowing wind, and became like the wind themselves? Now, this is where I started to really get into this text. So, what if instead of saying, You forgot about me and so you re worthless now, God is saying, Listen, I don t want you to be empty. I don t want you to be blowing around like the wind not knowing who you are or where you came from. What if God is so hurt because God knows the people are going to be hurting, too? Now, I ve got to tell you something. This has been a bit of a rough patch for my family. Our nine month old isn t sleeping at night, you know teething, separation anxiety, all of that. So, some days we have sort of been walking zombies, haven t we, Alex? The other day, she was pretty distraught so I had to go home to be with her. And the only thing that would sooth her on that particular day was listening to the album Wednesday morning, 3AM by Simon and Garfunkel

4 One of the songs on this album is The Sounds of Silence or as it is popularly known, Hello Darkness my old friend. So, I m sitting there holding my upset, teething, overly tired nine month old and this song comes on. And in my head I have this passage for today because I couldn t get it out of my head all week. And a light bulb went on. This song IS this passage. People talking without speaking People hearing without listening People writing songs that voices never shared No one dared This passage is a passage of lament just like this song is a song of lament. God is heartbroken because the people are becoming empty. They are talking without speaking and hearing without listening. And so this text is an accusation from God yes, but it is more than that, it is an invitation. An invitation to the people to re-ground themselves in what matters. An invitation to remember who they are. An invitation to remember where they come from. It is an invitation to start speaking and listening and living in ways that honor whose they are. This entire passage is an invitation for these people to remember and share their story. Darkness may be your old friend, says God, but let me tell you, you have an even older friend in me, and don t you forget that. So, remember I started out talking about the youth group. Here s the rest of that story. Last Sunday we went out to lunch together. And somehow through the course of the morning we started calling ourselves positivity ninjas and talking about how we could bring joy to those around us. We brainstormed a plan to come to the church on Friday night, wear all black, and run around writing positive messages in chalk on the sidewalks. There was so much energy and excitement that we rushed the approval process. Maggie ed Christian Nurture, Joy ed the session and magically we got all of the responses within a day or so (if you know anything

5 about Presbyterians you know how big of a deal it is to get something approved this fast!). It was a resounding yes, go for it! And I m so glad we did. After we had our little talk about scripture which you know basically ended in crickets. We started talking about what we thought people in the world needed to hear. What messages were people desperate for in this city? You are beautiful just as you are. You are loved. Your voice matters. Come as you are. Love yourself. We are listening. These are just a few of the things these youth shared. So, we went out and got to work. We were running around the church sidewalks writing in chalk. And the results were beautiful. Here are a few pictures (slideshow):

6

7 People stopped. They looked. They took pictures. They smiled. Some even stopped to talk to us. Some asked, Why? Some just thanked us quietly. And all the while this scripture for today was swirling in my head. The world is a pretty dark place right now. I don t have to rattle off the list of painful things in our individual lives and in the world. You all get it. You know. And here were these teenagers wanting to bring beauty into the world. They didn t want people s lives to be empty. They wanted people to remember who they were at their core. It wasn t just about being positive it was about helping people to remember the whole of our story: who we are and whose we are. And these teenagers just got that.

8 Darkness indeed is an old friend, but dear ones, God is an older friend. God was on the street with us chalking and talking and listening and dreaming. And guess what, then it rained and the rain washed that all away. What might you dream up that invites people to remember who they are at their core? Now it s your turn. Amen.

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