Text: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
If you worship here regularly, you know that I don’t give titles to my sermons. But if I were going to give today’s sermon a title, I would call it “The Other Side of ‘the stuff.’” Because this is the point I want you take home with you today: that God is with us – that God is with you, walking with you through your challenges and troubles. And because of this, if you can simply wait on God, you will eventually find yourself on the other side of your “stuff.”
That’s the message of our old testament lesson today. But there is some background information you need in order to understand that.
The words we heard from Jeremiah today were written during a low point in the history of the Kingdom of Judah. Judah was part of Israel. The kingdom had been invaded by the Babylonian empire. At the time that Jeremiah wrote the words that we heard today, the king of Judah was about to be arrested; Jeremiah himself had already been arrested. People were being captured and taken back to Babylon as prisoners. Others were remaining in Judah, but were challenged to continue to live life amid the ruin and destruction. Once the kingdom was under siege, once they were overrun by the occupying army, nothing that the people knew as “normal” continued to exist.
And then, curiously, in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation, God tells Jeremiah that he will receive an offer to purchase a parcel of land. God tells him that, in spite of appearances, life will go on. “Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land,” God says. In other words, “If you’ll just wait, you’ll get to the other side of “the stuff.”
The revelation is extraordinary because, coming as it does in the middle of this national tragedy, it would appear doubtful that the land will ever be available for Jeremiah to lay claim to it, let alone live on it or farm it. No…to spend the money to purchase this land would be a foolhardy, wasteful act…
But then, just as God said it would, the offer to purchase the land comes. And Jeremiah buys the parcel. And he takes the deed and puts it away for safekeeping. He directs that the deed be placed in an earthenware vessel, because he knows it is going to be a long time before he will be able to establish his ownership and lay claim to the property.
He knows it is going to be a long, long time…
But Jeremiah trusts God. And because he trusts God, he knows that in time he will find himself on the other side of “the stuff.” It may take a while. He may grow weary of waiting. But he knows that his faithful God will bring him to the other side of “the stuff” in due course.
You and I can learn a lot from Jeremiah. Because we all have our own “stuff” we’re trying to get through.
You know the kinds of things I mean: Those circumstances and challenges and problems and issues that arise in life that make you crazy. The stuff that makes you lie awake in the middle of the night; that makes you wish you were dead; that makes you wish someone else were dead. That stuff that alternately gives you heartburn and heartache. You know the stuff I mean…
The stuff that drives you to your vices in search of comfort. The stuff that robs you of your hope. The stuff that makes you believe that everything is always going to be the same messed-up way it is today; that things will never get better, because nothing ever does get better. The stuff that makes you live as if in a cloud that obscures the light of God.
But, oh…my sisters and brothers, we’ve gotta fight against the impulse to let ourselves be defined by our stuff – to sink down into it and make it our home. For we are children of a God who loves us so much that he doesn’t want to see us stay in “the stuff” forever.
That is one of the fundamental reasons that Jesus came and died. So that you and I would not have to forever be burdened by our “stuff.” So that we could actually hope to be set free from our “stuff,” to live powerfully and victoriously as children of the light.
By the power of God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, God gives us the strength to go on, in spite of “the stuff” that creeps up in our lives.
I know a man who struggles to regain the good health of his youth. Sometimes it seems like for every step he takes toward improvement, he takes three steps backward. Sometimes it seems as if there is more bad in his life than good. Sometimes it seems that there is more pain in his life than pleasure.
And yet…the days are orderly and peaceful; there is always some small triumph to celebrate; life has a certain order and a certain beauty as it moves on toward the other side of “the stuff.”
I know a woman who had a job that she loved, and upon which she depended. She was loyal to her employer and thought her employer loyal to her. Until he fired her in order to make room to hire a family friend.
She went into deep debt. She nearly lost her home. There were days she went hungry. It was nearly a year before she found new employment. But she did find new employment.
And slowly, but surely… she dealt with the debt; she dealt with the damage to her credit. She rebuilt her life.
She had the strength to unravel the mess because God himself was leading her to the other side of “the stuff.”
And I…I once loved a man who asked me to marry him. I said yes. A few months later he told me, without apology, that he was in love with an old girlfriend, and that he would be marrying her instead of me. I was hurt and humiliated. I thought I would die. I wanted to die.
But I didn’t die. I got up every day, washed myself and put on my clothes. Every day, I did the things I knew how to do. And a faithful, loving God gently led me to the other side of “the stuff.”
Disappointing choices. Betrayal. Broken dreams. Unrelenting ill health. Unyielding heartache. Financial hardship. Addiction. Unforgiveness.
Tragedy that seems to taunt our faith in a loving, giving, steadfast God.
What stuff is your stuff? What do you need to get through?
While Jeremiah was waiting to get to the other side of his stuff, he never gave in to despair for long. He went on with the mundane events of life. He got up every day and washed himself and put on his clothes. He spent money to buy a parcel of land in a place that was occupied by an enemy army. He put the deed away for safekeeping, because he knew he would need it one day. He knew that he would, one day, get to the other side of the trouble – the stuff.
He never stopped living and waiting and hoping for that time. He never stopped confidently trusting it would come one day. He never stopped living his life while he waited for that day to come.
This is God’s word. This is God’s message. This is God’s promise.
No matter the circumstance; no matter the challenge; no matter the hurt, no matter the injury to body or soul; however deep it cuts; however badly it hurts; however much you long to cry out; however great a burden it places on your spirit… life will go on. And God will be there – loving you; faithful to you; and leading you to the other side “the stuff.”
I stood up this morning to say, “Thanks be to God for giving us this victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord.