Rev. George Miller
Jeremiah 2: 4-13
“Chasing Pavements ”
August 29, 2010
Two years ago a beautiful, woeful song came out called “Chasing Pavements.” The vocalist has this raspy, soulful voice, singing to a lover who can’t decide what he wants. In the chorus, she asks “Should I give up or should I keep on chasing pavements, even if they lead nowhere?”
It is the perfect song for anyone who’s had an unrequited love or dead-end relationship. It’s also what played in my head as I read today’s scripture.
Jeremiah 2 is a beautiful, woeful love song, a song stating how the people have forgotten about God and have been chasing pavements instead.
In this song, God takes on the role of a spurned lover who took care of the people, led them through difficult times and gave them a home.
But once the people had their new homes they forgot. They forgot all that God had done, they forgot how God had blessed and gave them life.
By forgetting, they failed to trust, to trust that God would continue to be active in their lives. They turned to other gods, committing acts of sin and injustice.
God looks at the people as they self-destruct and compassionately asks “Why did you give up on me?”
God looks at the priests, prophets and rulers and asks “Why aren’t you calling out to me?”
God watches as everyone tries to unsuccessfully quench their thirsts with cracked cisterns and asks “Why have you neglected me, the fountain of living water?”
“Why? Why are you chasing pavements that are leading you nowhere?”
This is an emotional appeal from a heartbroken God who loves us so. And unfortunately, it’s an appeal God is still saying today.
Dr. John Bracke, a professor of mine, wrote that the book of Jeremiah is very much about God, and that it answers the questions Who is God? What is God’s character? And what purpose does God have for Creation?
Today I would like to put a spin on Dr. Bracke’s hypotheses to create a sermon that explores what it means to be human from a theological stance.
Jeremiah states that the people have gone after worthless things, becoming worthless themselves. They have placed their hopes, fears and trust in other gods, chasing pavements that they have lead nowhere.
In this weeks K.I.T. I said that one of my idols is time, and I believe that everyone has an idol or two or five or ten that they have placed their trust or fear into, pulling their energy and focus away from God.
But idolatry is not what I wish to spend the rest of our time on. In reading Jeremiah 2, there are three affirming statements that appear, even if not directly stated.
The first, is that as humans we are beloved children of God. Why can I say that? For starters, in the Jeremiah 1 we have God saying “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
The biblical testimony time and again reminds us of this, that God not only knows us intimately, but loves us so deeply, deeper then we love ourselves.
God loved us enough to place us in a garden where all of our needs were met. God loved us enough to deliver us from bondage. God loved us enough to send his only begotten Son so that we may not perish but have eternal life.
What does it mean to be a human? It means that we are worthy of being protected and cared for.
Today’s chapter makes this so clear. God recalls leading the people through the wilderness, protecting them from their enemies and meeting their needs. God recalls leading them to a plentiful land, full of fresh fruit and good things.
Being human means being worthy of protection and care. So God is left wondering, why? Why aren’t the people calling upon the Lord?
Why, when things are about to go bad, have they not raised their voice, asked for help, reminding God that they deserve help and care?
Beloved children should know how to cry out for help. Why have the people forgotten about that and chased after other pavements instead?
Lastly, what does it mean to be human? It means that we are sinful beings, capable of making mistakes, hurting ourselves, one another, hurting God.
Human sin abounds in today’s reading. Straying from the teachings, defiling the land, forsaking God and thinking we’re so self-sufficient that we alone can save ourselves...and if not us, then worshiping worthless things will.
Yes, to be human means that we are all sinners. But here’s the good news, here is where we can stop chasing pavements: we are all worthy of grace.
Grace, that wonderful, majestic, beautiful word. Grace that says God forgives, that God has chosen to forget and that God is giving yet another chance for us to get things right.
In today’s reading God is so heartbroken and so upset at the people. But God will not give up on them. Even as they forsake God, God refuses to let go, calling them “my people.”
In grace, God calls the people to return and acknowledge their guilt, promising to not look at them in anger but to be merciful, blessing the nations (4:2) and providing shepherds who’ll feed them with wisdom and understanding. (3:11-15).
And of course, we did receive a Good Shepherd, didn’t we? In the person of Jesus Christ, who became our living water, who forgave us our sins and who said “Follow me”, leading us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
In conclusion, Jeremiah wrote to people who were chasing pavements, placing their trust in other things. He tried to refocus them on who God is, what God is about, and what God’s plan is for us.
I make the claim, that through Jeremiah’s writing, we can learn about ourselves, discerning a little bit more about what it mean to be human.
Yes, as humans we stumble and worship other things. But to be human also means that we are beloved children of God. We are worthy of being protected and cared for.
And that even though we are sinners, we are all worthy of grace.
We fail, we flounder, we do what we are not to do. But the amazing thing is that God through Christ always provides a path for us back home and back into God’s loving arms.
And there is where the Lord will be...and we no longer need to continue chasing pavements.
All thanks and honor be to God who leads us like a loving husband, to the Spirit that falls fresh upon us like living waters and to Jesus Christ who is our way, truth and light.
Amen and amen.