Thursday, March 15, 2012

God’s Place in the Gay Rights Movement (Jeremiah 15:15a, 21)

Adonai, remember me!
Remember me and help me!
(God says) “I will free you from the hand of the evildoer,
and rescue you from the clutches of the violent.”
Jeremiah 15:15a, 21

Psalm 1 promises a simple truth: the path of the justice-lover leads to a good life, the path of the unjust leads to a troublesome life. Happiness, affirms the Psalm, comes to those who take delight in the wisdom of the Sacred.

Jeremiah has followed the advice of Psalm 1. He received the guidance of God with delight, staying away from bad company. Yet, instead of happiness it is bitterness that the prophet experiences. For Jeremiah even the unifying image of Psalm 1, the assurance of a God who is like flowing water nourishing fruitful trees, is a lie. The prophet contends God is no better than a seasonal stream – a mere illusion of hope (15:18).

Jeremiah’s experience of the Sacred is far from the promise of Psalm 1: instead of certainty there is anxiety, instead of confidence there is apprehension, instead of trust there is dread, instead of peace there is trepidation.

The Holy, also versed in the promises of Psalm 1, tells Jeremiah to “turn back” and to “stand before me” (15:19). Getting a little technical, the Hebrew word for stand can also mean to serve as in the notion that to “stand before the throne” is to serve the ruler. In effect the Holy One invites Jeremiah to “turn back and serve me.” The same word appears in the opening verse of Psalm 1 in the description of the justice-lovers as those “who refuse to serve with criminals.”

In the best of biblical irony, the Sacred is saying that Jeremiah’s attitude has him serving the unjust. If the face of God is hidden it is because Jeremiah is serving, or standing in front of, the wrong audience.

Jeremiah’s troubles have to do with who he is trying to please. Apparently Jeremiah fell into the trap of public opinion. In issuing an invitation to turn back, the Holy is reminding Jeremiah that service to justice does not depend upon public opinion polls. Indeed justice is not always popular.

God’s promise to Jeremiah is not that the prophet will be removed from his predicament. The promise is that the Holy will be with Jeremiah in the midst of his predicament. “I will make you a bronze wall fortified against this people. They will fight against you but they will not overcome you” (15:20a).

The dynamics of our struggles for gay rights closely reflect this encounter of the Holy and Jeremiah. Justice-lovers are never alone, God stands with us.

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