A reflection by Danny Schweers, 28 August 2022.
The Book of Jeremiah is not pleasant reading, but…
Readings from the Book of Jeremiah may be heard often in those denominations which emphasize the sinfulness of human beings, but it is not a favorite among my fellow Episcopalians. Episcopalians emphasize God’s love and forgiveness, not God’s disappointment and anger. Even so, I find myself fascinated by two items in the second chapter of Jeremiah.
The first item is a question. Twice, in the second chapter of Jeremiah, the Houses of Jacob and Israel are chastised for not asking “Where is God?” — as though that question were central to faith. Usually faith is characterized by statements and creeds, not questions. In worship services, we recite the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. We do not ask, “Where is God?”
“Where is God?” is a question I like.
It is a question of the moment, asking us to look around. It is us seeking to find God in our lives now. It is not so much an acknowledgement that we have lost track of God as it is an exhortation to look, and to continue looking, for a living being who wants to be found. If it is a question central to faith, it is because it forces us to look around us. Where is God in our souls? Our lives? Our church? Our community? Our nation? The world?
“Where is God?” is a question that suggests God may have moved on since we last checked in. It is a question we keep asking because ours is a living God and not something stored away that we pull out when needed. And that brings me to the second item I find fascinating in Jeremiah, found in verse 13 of the second chapter.
Living Water and Cisterns
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Here in Delaware, springs of living water are common. There is one in the cellar of my home every time we have a heavy rain. Spring houses are a feature of the surrounding countryside. But in a desert climate like Palestine, water is precious. Water springing from the ground is rare. In that context, it is a powerful thing for God to say, “I am a spring of living water.”
Are you familiar with cisterns?
Usually they are underground storage tanks for water. The idea is to keep water in cisterns for times when it is needed. Cisterns that leak, that cannot hold water, are useless. Water goes in but disappears.
In spiritual terms, I love the idea that God is a spring of living water, one we can go to again and again in our thirst. In spiritual terms, I can see that building cisterns for this living water shows a lack of faith. We cannot store up the living water for some future time when we might need it. We cannot connect God to a spigot, a faucet that we turn on whenever we are thirsty or want to wash ourselves clean. When that happens, we need to ask, “Where is God?” Where is the spiritual water springing up now? We may need to search, but God wants to be found.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danny N. Schweers chairs SsAM’s Communication Committee as well as being an active photographer and writer. Click here to visit his website.