Imagery from Jeremiah

A Case for Lament

Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.  Jeremiah 9:1 NIV

This is what the Lord Almighty says:
“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids.

The sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
‘How ruined we are! How great is our shame!
We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.’ ”

Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth.
Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament.
Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses;
it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.  Jeremiah 9:17-21 NIV

The kind of lament described above, isn’t familiar to most of us in this country. Until I researched it, I didn’t know that people (usually women, in certain cultures), were trained to be lamenter/wailers. They were to be available to grieve with people who had experienced loss of something or someone.

For many of us, it is hard to freely express our grief openly. I have been grateful for this church community and the help I’ve received during a number of deaths in my family. I am also grateful for books I have been given and for support groups that are available, to enable people to share in each other’s griefs and struggles. I could have used help with more than one loss, particularly when I was a child.

I’ve mentioned before that because of a physical illness that our parents had (which meant that we had to be isolated from them periodically), my sister and I were moved around among different family members a number of times from our infancy on. Sometimes these moves included my younger sister and me, but sometimes, we were split up to live with different sides of the family. I am fourteen months older than my sister, and it was easier for some of the relatives to have us one at a time rather than together.

Our father died when I was four and my sister was three. When our mother got well, we were moved to live with her, her sister and their mother in New Mexico.

When I was 10, our mother got sick again. In the spring of 1953, because it was easier to isolate one of us while our grandmother was nursing Mom, my sister remained in New Mexico, and I was sent to live with our father’s sister and her husband in Denver,.

I turned 11 in August of 1953 and Mom died in November. We had been getting progress reports via daily postcards up until the phone rang at 9:30 one night, I remember saying, “Mom’s gone!”. I couldn’t cry for weeks. My aunt wasn’t very concerned, but my uncle was, and he resorted to a ruse to help me.

My aunt in New Mexico had sent a card with a $5.00 bill in it. There had been 2 of them in Mom’s purse. My sister and I each got one. I saved mine for weeks. My uncle rushed in one morning and asked if he could borrow it as he needed to pay the paper boy. I gave it to him, but said that it was the last thing I had from Mom. I started to cry, and cried for a long time that day. After that, every time I started to cry, my aunt would ask, “What are you blubbering about?” or threaten me with, ”I’ll give you something to cry about!” I learned to stuff my grief around everybody.

I still am more apt to cry for joy than for my own grief. I am learning that Jesus shares my sorrow and that he is safe to cry with.

Do any of you reading this relate? Ponder Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I recommend Darrell W. Johnson’s book, The Beatitudes: Living in Sync with the Reign of God.

A Case for Lament2023-03-18T23:53:59-06:00

No Balm in Gilead

Chapters 8 and 9 in Jeremiah in are difficult to read. Jeremiah continues to tell the people of their sin, but the people continue to act as if all is well – they do not see a need to repent or change their ways. Imagine a small animal that has had its stomach completely ripped open by a predator, and someone comes along and puts a small Band-Aid designed to cover a scraped knee onto this gaping bleeding wound. Do you get the picture? Can you grasp how a Band-Aid would be completely inadequate to heal the wound inflicted on this poor animal? In Jeremiah 8:11 this is the picture the prophet is trying to make clear to the people of Judah.

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:11

Jeremiah has walked the streets of Jerusalem looking for anyone who is righteous or honest. He tells us what he has found instead.

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. Jeremiah 8:10b NIV

Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD. Jeremiah 8:12 NIV

The wound of the people of Judah is not a physical, bleeding one – at this time. The siege, the sword, and the famine are still in Judah’s not too distant future. No – the wound Jeremiah was speaking of was a spiritual one. Judah had turned away from their one true God, had embraced, followed, and worshiped other gods, who had no power to save them, to help them, or to even listen to them (as these were simply made of wood and stone).

Jeremiah describes his own and God’s lament over Judah’s sin in these verses.

O my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.
Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away:
“Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”
“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.”
Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me.
Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Jeremiah 8:18-22

These words are painful to read, and they express a deep grief over a wound that was not being addressed, so could not be healed. The balm of Gilead was a well known salve used to help heal wounds. Egyptians sought it (Genesis 37:25, Jeremiah 46:11), and its medicinal qualities were well known. But, to heal a wound – first the injury must be recognized and acknowledged. Then steps can be taken to clean the wound, apply medicine to the area, stitch it, and wrap it up, so that healing can actually take place. The people of Judah couldn’t apply the ‘balm of Gilead’, as they did not acknowledge that they even had a wound. Do you have a wound that needs to be acknowledged? Do you have an injury that you have ignored, or denied? If so, identifying it to yourself and to God, is a good first step.

No Balm in Gilead2023-03-18T09:58:36-06:00

Disaster is Coming – Lament Will Begin

“The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire — something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 32 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call it Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 33 Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away. 34 I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.”

8:1 “At that time, declares the Lord, the bones of the kings and officials of Judah, the bones of the priests and prophets, and the bones of the people of Jerusalem will be removed from their graves. 2 They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens, which they have loved and served and which they have followed and consulted and worshiped. They will not be gathered up or buried, but will be like dung lying on the ground. 3 Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life, declares the Lord Almighty.” Jeremiah 7:30-8:3

In chapters 7 and 8 of Jeremiah, we begin to see the first signs of the fate that awaits the nation of Judah. Convinced of their own special connection to Yahweh [YAH-veh], they do not see their fate coming. In chapter 7, we see Jeremiah at his fiery best, as he calls out the nation that has continued to sacrifice in the temple but has failed to live out the way of Yahweh [YAH-veh] in practice. Even their repentance has been hollow. He predicts that the fate of Judah will be the same as Israel’s. He tells us of an “end to the sounds of joy and gladness”.

Disaster is coming. Lament will begin.

And the city once full of the sounds of joy and gladness will be left desolate.  Jeremiah 7:34

At the end of the seventh century BC, the Chaldean Empire would sweep across the area we know today as the Middle East. While we might have some sense of what would take place, our information is limited. Kathleen O’Conner notes that the writing of history usually omits mention of human suffering. The brutal practices are often lost in the simple narratives of Jeremiah, and we are left to imagine as best we can: the displaced families left with nothing, the stench of a city under siege, and above all, the loss of life and dignity.

It is perhaps Lamentations rather than Jeremiah that best provides us a window into this suffering.

Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment.
Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert.
Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish from hunger.
Women have been violated in Zion, and virgins in the towns of Judah.
Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders are shown no respect.
Young men toil at the millstones; boys stagger under loads of wood.
The elders are gone from the city gate; the young men have stopped their music.
Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!   Lamentations 5:7-13

As we enter a week of contemplating and participating in ”lament”, begin by placing yourself in the midst of the people of Jerusalem. What are your emotions? What actions follow? Where is God in the midst of it all?

Disaster is Coming – Lament Will Begin2023-03-18T23:26:46-06:00

Red Couch Theology

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast. We expect to record our podcast “live” every Thursday at 11am.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron, and the occasional guest having a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

Ask Questions about the Sermon, “Imagery from Jeremiah” – A Lenten Sermon Series,
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

Blog sites:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology2023-03-11T10:03:45-07:00

Open the Cage

As Americans, we seem obsessed with the concept of freedom from constraints. But how should Jesus’ followers practice freedom? Free to do what? Free to indulge our own desires, or free to obey and serve the one true God and those he has created?

In Jeremiah 5, the prophet gave a harsh description of the inhabitants of Judah. They had let their desires run amok – greedy to indulge themselves. Although poor and rich alike gave way to pleasure, the clever acted like fowlers – caging their fellow citizens like birds.

Indeed, there are wicked scoundrels among my people.
They lie in wait like bird catchers hiding in ambush.
They set deadly traps to catch people.
Like a cage filled with the birds that have been caught,
their houses are filled with the gains of their fraud and deceit.
That is how they have gotten so rich and powerful.
That is how they have grown fat and sleek.
There is no limit to the evil things they do.
They do not plead the cause of the fatherless in such a way as to win it.
They do not defend the rights of the poor. Jeremiah 5:26-28 NET

In my earlier years, I lived with a family in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a wealthy suburb located on the western border of our nation’s capital. I observed crosstown buses disgorging large groups of older, black women, each weekday morning. They cleaned houses for the wealthy and returned each evening to the poor side of the city. I had conversations with friends who came from other countries to act as au pair nannies to children of the affluent – for little pay to undergo near captivity. These inequities upset me.

Similar employment inequities came to national attention during a scandal called “Nannygate”. Although the talented, ambitious people involved were poised to assume high office in Washington, D.C., their opportunities vanished when their egregious employment schemes were reported. Did that unmasking prompt legislation ending the practice of taking advantage of vulnerable people for difficult and dirty tasks? Sadly, even if laws are enacted to curtail such oppression of the poor by the clever, they seem to have a built-in “whack-a-mole” feature.

So should we give up on stemming the tide of these injustices? As followers of Christ, how can we act to guard ourselves against the all-too-human inclination to cage others into service for our own ends? I suggest we do what Jesus’ followers have always done when social and political systems seem irretrievably corrupt. Ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and hearts to care for one person at a time.

Application: Practice generosity as a stopgap for greed.

If you already have ongoing relationships with those God has been calling you to serve – simply continue or expand those relationships – no guilt trips please. If someone whose cage needs opening comes to mind, try a dignifying “hand up” approach rather than a one-time, dismissive “handout”.

If you haven’t reached your full capacity for serving those in need, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone unlikely to be spotlighted for help. Don’t seek publicity, payback or a tax write-off for yourself. Give attention to non-monetary ways to care.

Open the Cage2023-03-11T10:18:55-07:00

Too Much and Never Enough?

“What do people mean when they ask, ‘Do you have enough?’” inquired a pastor at a church I used to attend. He followed up with, “Enough of what?” The answer to the question was obvious. Have we saved enough for retirement, enough to pay college tuition, enough to ensure we have freedom and peace and safety and whatever else we’re hoping to pin down? Humans like to quantify, to count, to control. The pastor was asking us to question ourselves, to ask what we hoped would fulfill our deepest longings for security and peace, He was also asking if money can be measured in terms of being “enough”? Are there cases when money might actually work counter to our goals of freedom and peace? Is the stuff we collect even ours?

Wealth is not bad or good in itself, but our attitude about wealth and the way we acquire it certainly can be damaged. Because the people of Judah had stopped thinking that God was enough, an insatiable and callous pursuit of wealth had taken hold of them:

For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.[a]
They set a trap; they catch men.
Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.
Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”  Jeremiah 5:26-29 ESV

Like fowlers who trapped birds destined for sacrifice or food, the wicked set traps for the weak and poor so they could use them for their own advantage. The hunters’ bags are full of helpless prey that will never fly free again. Their houses are compared to a cage full of deceit. Jeremiah seems to be painting a picture of the grand houses of the wicked as places where the hunters will become hunted; they have invited deceit to live with them. They have trapped the innocent but in the process become enclosed in a cage of their own making, and it’s one infested with deceit. What troubling images!

Because it’s so normal for people in general to wonder, “do we have enough?”, it’s easy to become callous. When the bottom line is “enough”, the “bounds of deeds of evil” can slip. We can be indifferent to the plight of those who are being taken advantage of – we ourselves can fall into the fowlers’ traps. Jeremiah reminds us that a society that’s based on acquiring wealth and on survival of the fittest, this attitude may seem to nurture some successful people. In the end, accepting this mentality as the status quo will lead to an unjust society and God’s eventual judgment.


Pray for a better understanding of what “enough” is for you. Is your view healthy? Does “enough” include the perspective that all we have is a gift of God? Could faithful giving be more of a source of “enough” than clinging to our possessions as our own? Ask God for guidance in this process.

Too Much and Never Enough?2023-03-11T09:08:10-07:00

No Fear of the Lord in Judah

Alex introduced in our first week of lent the idea that there is a way to live that seems good but leads to death. This week we are focusing on Jeremiah 5.
I encourage you to read chapter 5 this week. It gives a good overview of Judah’s true spiritual situation.

“The house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me,” declares the LORD. They have lied about the LORD; they said, “He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.”  Jeremiah 5:11-12

The leaders: the priests, the kings, the rulers in Judah believed they were the chosen people of God, that they would be forever protected by God, never destroyed as a nation. (They conveniently forgot the earlier destruction of the northern country of Israel.) They believed that they could act in any manner they wished. God had promised punishment for their sins against him – many times — but had relented from actually bringing destruction to Judah repeatedly in the past. Why wouldn’t he relent again? Jeremiah records God’s answer to that sort of faulty thinking,

“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?” declares the LORD. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ “  Jeremiah 5:21-24 NIV

This is the crux of the problem. The leaders of Judah and most of the people no longer feared the Lord. What does that mean? Deuteronomy lays it out clearly for us.

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.  Deuteronomy 10:12-20 NIV

What about you and me? Do we fear the Lord? Do we believe everything will continue on as it always has? Will the evil and injustice in our world ever come to an end? How are we as followers of Jesus to behave in the world we live in today?

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.  Psalm 15 NIV

Take another look at Jeremiah 5, Deuteronomy 10:12-20, and Psalm 15. Notice how they address the fear of the Lord. Ask God to show you how you might not have been fearing the Lord in your life and how He is asking you to do so in the future. Pray about it; step into that. May we all heed the warning to Judah to ”fear the Lord our God”.

No Fear of the Lord in Judah2023-03-11T08:48:35-07:00

Everything Is Awesome…Or is it?

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.”  (Jeremiah 5:1)

The irony of Chapter 5 is that the chapter’s content doesn’t match the city’s view of its situation. We start chapter 5 with this image of Jeremiah walking the streets, looking for someone honest or seeking truth. He doesn’t find anyone. What is worse, Jeremiah finds more evil the more he walks. First, we learn that he considers evil among the poor. He then wonders if they are only doing wrong because they don’t know better. Jeremiah decides to go to the wealthy and educated but finds evil among them too. The chapter seems so bleak.

The twist is that this chapter is written in a city that believes everything is going well. The problem is that the people don’t see the state they are in because they are comfortable, well-fed, and wealthy.

What does this have to do with us? The question we can ask is, how are we similar to this city? Are we living in relative comfort and safety while ignoring the risks of our way of life? Take a moment to ask the spirit to walk the streets of your heart. Ask the spirit to do what God tells Jeremiah to do in this opening verse. Confess the evils God finds and step into the invitation to a new way God offers. That is what repentance is all about.

Everything Is Awesome…Or is it?2023-03-11T08:15:21-07:00

Red Couch Theology

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast. We expect to record our podcast “live” every Thursday at 11am.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron, and the occasional guest having a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

Ask Questions about the Sermon, “Imagery from Jeremiah” – A Lenten Sermon Series,
by texting 720-316-3893 prior to, or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

Blog sites:

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology2023-03-04T14:43:31-07:00

We’re in This Together

During this time of year, some Christians choose to observe the tradition of Lent, a season of penitence (heart change – not re-salvation) and fasting (reflecting Jesus’ 40 days in the Wilderness). This tradition was developed over the centuries as a formal, united way of remembering and venerating the key event of human history – Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

If you’ve chosen to observe Lenten practices, it seems wise to aim for more than abstaining from luxurious treats or pleasurable habits, to break ties with selfish pursuits. An additional benefit might be: heightened awareness that Jesus’ Kingdom community spans past, present, and future.

During Lent, our local church body is searching the prophecies of Jeremiah to gain deeper insight into the reason for this season. Here’s how the Lord begins his address to the nation of Judah in chapter 2. Notice references to a range of generations.

…. This is what the Lord says: “I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to me in your early years. I remember how you loved me like a new bride; you followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted.” Jeremiah 2:2 NET

This is what the Lord says: What fault could your ancestors have possibly found in me that they strayed so far from me?
They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to me. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord who delivered us out of Egypt?’”
Jeremiah 2:5-6a NET

“So, once more I will state my case against you,” says the Lord.
“I will also state it against your children and grandchildren.” Jeremiah 2:9 NET

Like me, you may drift into the “just me and God” approach that is almost automatic when considering fasting, reflecting, and gaining greater intimacy with him. Constant exposure to our individualistic culture causes us to forget the Holy Spirit has inextricably linked us to an eternal multitude of other loyal members of his Kingdom. God makes no allowances for “Lone Ranger” Christianity. Jesus followers have been, are, and will be affected by the actions and attitudes of each other.

In Jeremiah 3, we find a prescribed prayer of repentance for the nation of Judah (God’s chosen Kingdom of that time).
Notice its corporate nature.

Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors;
from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 3:25 NIV

The word picture below, included in my devotional last week, may provide additional understanding:

…my people have committed a double wrong:
They have rejected me, the fountain of life-giving water, and they have dug cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns that cannot even hold water. Jeremiah 2:13 NET

God’s desire isn’t just to turn us from the selfish pursuit of digging our own cisterns. Only our Lord can dig deep wells in our hearts and fill them with his fountain of life-giving water. Only he can repair subsequent “leaks” in our hearts as we fully embrace his ways. The secure heart-cisterns crafted by him are individual; but a filling with his life-giving water is common to all who trust him. As believers throughout time fully committed to him, all of us benefit – we’re in this together.

Consider this motto of the 300 Moravians who, after an emotional revival in 1727, took God’s refilling seriously and became renowned for 100 years of continuous, corporate prayer:

“None of us liveth unto himself”

The Moravians’ devotion to prayer and each other undergirded amazing advances of the Gospel.
During this season, if you’ve considered fasting or abstaining from a personal luxury or habit in hope that his Spirit will overflow both in your life and the lives of others, here are straightforward and familiar scriptures you can apply. Give special attention to corporate and individual themes as well as promised rewards.

How to enter fasting (hint: led by the Spirit)



We’re in This Together2023-03-04T14:32:37-07:00
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