Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

To Do Justice

December 2nd:

December 2, 2012
Potsdam and WS
Text:               Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Read:       W&S #2

                                To Do Justice

The days are surely coming says the Lord
        When I will fulfill the promise I made
                To the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

There is no better way to begin Advent
than with these words:
        Even though the words were spoken some 600 years before the birth of Christ

When we sing about "long expected" Jesus
        We mean "long" expected

And here let me make you a promise
        In talking about Jeremiah's words,
        I promise that I will not exceed one minute for each of those years

Just think of it:   The days are surely coming
        Not might come! Not may come!
        But surely will come!

This language is Jeremiah's way of saying
        "No matter how discouraged you are;
        No matter how difficult your troubles are
        No matter how often you have strayed from God
There is no question,       you can and you still should rely on God

Jeremiah used that same certainty language a couple of chapters earlier
when he proclaimed that
                "The days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant ... and I will write it on their hearts."

And now he uses it again

This time what Jeremiah says will be surely coming
Are the days when God will fulfill God's promise.
        By raising up a righteous branch for David

God's relationship with humankind
has been through a series of covenants or promises

The early one with Abraham
        Where God promised him numerous descendents

Then the one with Moses
        "I will be your God and you will be my people"
With the caveat:    "if you obey my commandments"

And lastly the one with David
        "Your descendents will sit on the throne forever"
                But again with a caveat:
"I will, however, punish them for their transgressions"
In both the new covenant text and this morning's text
God, through Jeremiah,
        Promises something new to fulfill one of the old promises

When Jeremiah tells us that the new covenant is surely coming
        He uses language from the Mosaic covenant
                "I will be their God and they will be my people."

In today's scripture Jeremiah announces the raising up of a new leader
        This refers us to God's covenant with David.
                "Your heirs will sit on the throne forever."

In both examples,
        We are given the message that God keeps God's promises.

That message was important for the people of Judah to hear.

For the people had been behaving in ways that demonstrated that they
        Had remembered and arrogantly relied on the promises
        But having conveniently ignored or forgotten the caveats,
                Thought that God had let them down

At the time Jeremiah spoke
        things were not good in Judah,
In fact, it was a time when things were going badly for the people of Judah
And they had been going badly for quite some time.

In fact, they had been going badly
At least since Solomon's death about three centuries before
Following Solomon's reign
        Both of the two kingdoms into which Israel had split had experienced a series of lousy kings
                Arrogant, power hungry, selfish, and corrupt
                Some gained power by assassinating their predecessors
                Most strayed a long ways from what God wanted from them
                They taxed, they fought, they conscripted
                Almost none were concerned about the ordinary people

And if all that sounds familiar, it should
        For it wasn't long ago that
we heard the people demanding a human king
we heard Samuel warn them about the dangers of such a king
warning of the very same dangers that they had now encountered.
        And we heard the people ignore those warnings
                Just as they ignored the caveats to the covenants

But it wasn't just the kings who ignored God
        Many of the people also turned from God
                They worshipped idols
                They focused on money and power
                The wealthy ignored the needs of the poor and outcast

Jeremiah challenged, chastised, and scolded
those lousy kings
and Jeremiah challenged, chastised, and scolded
the people of Judah

He challenged them for their lack of justice and righteousness
        "Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness
        And his upper rooms by injustice
        Who makes his neighbors work for nothing
        And does not give them their wages."        [22:13]

        But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart
        They have turned aside and gone away
        They do not say in their hearts
                "Let us fear the Lord our God       [5: 23-24a]

        They know no limits in deeds of wickedness
        They do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan to make it proper
        And they do not defend the rights of the needy      [5: 26b - 28]

One of the reasons that they needed to hear the message that God was steadfast in keeping promises
        Was that even amongst the indictments that he presented against them.
God through Jeremiah was presenting them with hope

There was a second reason as well
        And that was because God wanted to make it clear
That God expects justice not selfishness
Righteousness not cheating and taking advantage of
Sharing and caring not greed and indifference to the needy

And so God pointed out that
in fulfilling the promise to David
the one raised up would execute justice and righteousness
The third reason for this message was that they would need it during the exile punishment God was about to impose
        For God knew that in exile the kings and the people would not look to their own culpability
        God knew that instead,
 their discouragement would lead them to question
                Whether God had broken the promises
        Or  whether God was too weak to do anything to protect them

And God did keep the promise in our text.

Six hundred years later
God sent his son as the righteous branch for David
That son came to teach and show us
                That executing justice and righteousness involves
                        Being faithful to God
                        Being fair to others
                        Being humble rather than haughty

Knowing that we can rely on God,
we today eagerly begin our preparations
to celebrate the birth
of the one who did surely come to fulfill God's promise.

But as we prepare we should do so in a way that makes sure that
We don't so focus on the celebration
That we forget what is being celebrated
                And find ourselves ignoring the justice and righteousness
                That he was raised up to execute.