by Danny Schweers, November 30, 2022.
The Book of Jeremiah is not pleasant reading.
Readings from the Book of Jeremiah may be heard often in those Christian 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 asks us to seek 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 seek God afresh. Where is God in our souls? Our lives? Our church? Our community? Our nation? The world?
God may have moved on since we last checked in. Ours is a living God and not some kind of refreshment we can store away to 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?
Cisterns are usually underground storage tanks for water. The idea is to keep water for times when it is needed. Cisterns that leak, that cannot hold water, are useless. Water goes in but disappears. It is not there when needed.
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 misunderstanding of God.
God’s grace cannot be put in a cistern. The idea is that God’s grace cannot be bottled. It cannot be put in a keg. 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 opens a reservoir we have built for ourselves. When we are in need, we need find God anew.
Where is the spiritual water springing up now? Where is it flowing? I love the idea that we need to search, trusting that God wants to be found.
Photo above is of Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania.
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.