Saturday, March 28, 2015

Jeremiah, Jesus & The Moral Compass

Jeremiah 31.31-34
John  12.20-36
These passages tell us about two important moments in salvation history which have helped people to decide which way they ought to go. The first is the promise God made to Jeremiah, that God's People will no longer need to ask for directions but will be given their own internal satellite navigation system.
In some ways it's a bit like the colleague who told me that she has an internal sense of direction which means she never gets lost. To which I replied, 'So that' why, when we got to the fork on our way to the synod in Harrogate - this way to Spoforth, that way to Knaresborough - you instinctively knew which way to go - not! What's different about the promise made to Jeremiah is that the navigation system actually works, and also that there's nothing instinctive about it.
Jeremiah's assessment is that the People of Israel had taken a series of wrong turns in the past. They had eaten sour grapes, as Jeremiah puts it. But, as a result, it was their children teeth which were being set on edge.
The children found themselves in the same place as the traveller who asked the countryman how to get back to the town. 'Well if I wanted to go there,' he replied, I certainly wouldn't start from here.'
Jeremiah's generation was lost and didn't know which way to turn, and that was because of the mistakes of their parents. And finding their way back to God wasn't proving easy to do. The children had no moral compass, they were hopelessly lost.
So, according to Jeremiah, God's new solution is to give people an internal compass, or an internal Satnav, which will always be able to direct them onto the right path, wherever they're starting from. It's not something they can learn from their parents or their teachers, or something they can acquire by their own persistence or from experience, nor is it an innate sense that that they're born with - it's a gracious gift from God. God will put his law within them and write it on their hearts.
In our Gospel reading John portrays Jesus as facing the same dilemma. The right way to go is counter-intuitive, it doesn't make common sense. Instead, it is all about trusting in God. It means dying in order to bear fruit, hating this life in order to find everlasting life. No wonder that Jesus feels troubled and wants to be saved from death. He realises, however, that his death is - in fact - the decisive moment, his hour in the spotlight of history, to which his whole life has been leading him. He has to walk this way, the way that leads through the valley of the shadow of death, the way of the Cross, if he is to give glory to God's name.
And John emphasises, at the same time, that servants cannot expect to be greater than their master. If Jesus had to accept that being lifted up on the cross to die was his manifest destiny, what is our internal moral compass telling us to do? Where Jesus goes, there must his servants go also. Whoever serves him will therefore follow him.

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