Reading Jeremiah is not often jolly, because Jeremiah was not born in times of jollification.
When everyone was crying “peace,” Jeremiah cried “destruction.” He was the poor guy he cried doom and doom came. Mostly Jeremiah cried.
Jeremiah is proof positive that any form of Christianity that denies pain, sorrow, and failure comes to a believer in this life is not teaching or preaching the entire Word of God. We are, after all, the religion of the Cross and not of a glass of champagne.
The Party is to come and we will get many tastes of it in this life, but my grandparents generation understood that this is time of tears. Nobody gets out of life a winner: death comes to us all.
Temptation is to say, “I get it! We are to cry and carry our cross. Our message is ‘doom on you.’”
And then Jeremiah refuses to fit my flow-chart and demands my attention. He buys land in besieged Jerusalem. As the city crumbles, the prophet preaches the restoration of a remnant that will return.
Jeremiah gets downright jolly, just when everyone is sad. Now in broad terms, this is a bad idea. Wisdom says to weep with the weeping and cheer with the cheerful, but like all general truths it can be false in a particular. You can train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old that particular child does not just depart from it, but runs completely off the rails.
The proverb is (of course) generally true, but people are not machines.
Jeremiah had the annoying calling of breaking general rules, not unlike the prophet called to walk the city naked.
Most people I have known that think they are called to be Jeremiah have merely been geeks gone mad on religion. My rule: Jeremiah launches jeremiads and then pays the price. Cranks anticipate waling away on the flock without ever wailing.
Jeremiah paid the price of his incivility, but he did not stay “one note.” Weirdlings tend to cry havoc and keep crying havoc: Jeremiah was a sane person listening to a personal God. When God gave good news, then Jeremiah delivered it.
Jeremiah’s burden was to live in a time when his society was out of synch with reality. He was the one sane man in insane times.
The times are never quite sane, but some are madder than others. Everyone thinks their times particularly insane and I think this is true. Times are insane in particular ways and sane in others. America from the Founding developed an insane view of race that even infected the Church. While it still harms everything at least now racism is recognized as madness and evil.
Jeremiah lived in a time when almost everything was out of synch. In almost every area “good” was “bad” and “bad” was “good.” Rich thought oppressed the poor a virtue. Idols were gods and God was forgotten.
Whenever I am tempted to think I live in such times, I am reminded that even so: a remnant will be saved. My job? Ask Jesus to allow me to be part of that remnant. Where is the hope? Where is God in the madness? The point of a jeremiad is not to point to doom, but to the God who loves us enough not to allow our evil to continue.
Best to see God now.
The best news is that the weeping prophet weeps no more. He sees justice, love, and mercy face to face. The Party has begun for him. Weeping never endures, jollification is forever. Jeremiah is jolly today . . . and someday all of the redeemed shall be world without end.