"Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie and worship Baal and those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and shout, "We are safe!" -- only to go right back to all those evils again." -- Jeremiah 7:9-10
"They offer superficial treatments for my people's mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when all is war. Are they ashamed when they do these disgusting things? No, not at all -- they don't even blush." -- Jeremiah 8:11-12a
This morning these two parts of my reading in Jeremiah almost jumper off the page. It seems to me that almost all the churches in the area I live are struggling in various ways. There is strife, discord, and out and out conflict present in so many of the churches. There are many reasons this is a tragedy, the biggest is the fact that it kills our witness to an unbelieving world. Now I am not responsible for diagnosing what is happening in other churches, but I am responsible for Cortland UMC. I can only speculate about what is happening in other places, but I will share what I think are two of the leading causes of problems in the churches, all around the country.
First, is from the Jeremiah 7 passage above. I guess in one word this could be addressing integrity. We live lives that show little to no evidence of following after God, yet on Sunday morning we drag ourselves to church and tell ourselves that we are alright. There is an attempt to comfort ourselves by spending that hour to hour and half with God. Then when the preacher says amen and we walk out the door it is back to life as usual.
Second, the passage from Jeremiah 8. This passage is speaking to and about the priests and prophets of Jeremiah's day. It could be seen as speaking to the pastors of this day. I have encountered many pastors, and I may be one too, who offer trite and superficial words to a people who are hurting. We, pastors, might be once again guilty of allowing people to let their lives run off course by not teaching the hard aspects of walking with God. The worst is than many of my colleagues do not even feel bad. In fact I have heard many a boast about how little effort some put in. I have heard celebration over doing just enough to get by.
O lord break us. May we, your people, respond once again to your calling. May we once again return to our first love. Lord, may I and my colleagues always remember the responsibility we have to lead the people of God. May we recapture the words of John Wesley, "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." In Jesus name.