There can be no coherent concept of home, it would appear, apart from borders and boundaries that at once enclose and exclude. This suggests that those without a home … somehow exist beyond the insider–outsider binary that the rhetoric of “home” delineates.
For those who experience a divine compulsion to publicly resist the perversions of the powerful, despite their own hesitations and fears, Jeremiah may be an encouraging witness to the potential for an experience of divine presence alongside the pain.
Unlike the other covenants of the Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah’s new covenant does not focus on intermediaries, or written tablets, or monarchy, or temple, but on the divine self.
This Christmas season, what might it mean to live into the promise of hope fulfilled, when our pandemic experience means that hope strains against lost lives and lost livelihoods? Perhaps it involves visioning a redemption—one built on the social and economic implications of Jeremiah’s vision of those redeemed.
Mothers like Hagar who bear the weight of racism in the wilderness (Genesis 21:14) are always on the verge of losing their children—inferiorized by racist prejudice. These mothers’ voices are crying out, “Do not let me look on the death of the child” (Genesis 21:16).
How does one turn away from a Lenten desert, so profoundly illustrated in the wastelands of plastic filled beaches, and walk towards the resurrection hope of Easter? Perhaps by remembering that Easter is coming, but its only the middle of the story.
Jeremiah’s letter is a bold admonishment to remember that we are all, together, members of the political community. Wherever we find ourselves, we must not forget that there is such a thing as the common good.
Our societies are built upon the oppression of the poor and marginalised and yet, unless we remove ourselves entirely from the web of cords, laws, taxes, products, and biological needs inherent in twenty-first century life, we are forced to participate in the oppression of others, and the destruction of our habitats. We see, we know that the world is on the brink, yet we cannot escape. Facing such a reality, Jeremiah offers us a way forward: we lament, we express our rage, we retain hope by continuing to call for change, and through it all we never allow ourselves to be numbed or silenced by the enormity of it all.
God’s prophets are those who call us to recognize our limitations before the sovereignty of God. Indeed, Jeremiah reminds us of the relativity of human politics and that in God alone does the individual and human society find meaning and security.
Jeremiah dared to proclaim a covenant renewed, a world revived, a future resurrected. In the midst of a broken world, Jeremiah declared God’s endless fidelity, which brings forth life in the midst of death and despair.
The promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-34 contains political dimensions that typically pass unrecognized, but which provide a rich description of an ideal polity. This prophetic vision can serve as a powerful counterpart and companion to more conventional political utopias and idealized societies.
In light of the two kingdoms doctrine and the separation of church and state, understanding the appropriate form of Christian prayer for and engagement with the political realities of our societies can be complex. In Jeremiah’s message to an exiled people, we find a pattern for prayer in a pluralistic context, a calling that identifies our primary task to be one of seeking the common good and welfare of our communities, rather than one of submission or conversion.