Episcopal Church in Minnesota
 
Environmental Stewardship Commission
Lectionary Reflection
All Years, Second Sunday After Christmas, Old Testament Lesson

Jeremiah 31: 7-14
 
Thus says the LORD:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, 
     and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; 
proclaim, give praise, and say, 
     "Save, O LORD, your people, 
     the remnant of Israel." 
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, 
     and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, 
among them the blind and the lame, those with child and 
     those in labor, together; 
     a great company, they shall return here. 
With weeping they shall come, 
     and with consolations I will lead them back, 
I will let them walk by brooks of water, 
     in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; 
for I have become a father to Israel, 
     and Ephraim is my firstborn. 

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, 
     and declare it in the coastlands far away; 
say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him, 
     and will keep him as a shepherd a flock." 
For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, 
     and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, 
     and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, 
over the grain, the wine, and the oil, 
     and over the young of the flock and the herd; 
their life shall become like a watered garden, 
     and they shall never languish again. 
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, 
     and the young men and the old shall be merry. 
I will turn their mourning into joy, 
     I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. 
I will give the priests their fill of fatness, 
     and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, 

says the LORD.

 
Reflection on Jeremiah 31:7-14:
by the Rev John Gibbs
 
What might be the purpose of this series of lectionary comments from the MEESC? On one hand, it would be counterproductive to preach about the environment every Sunday. MEESC does not expect that to be done. On the other hand, given Western theology's centuries-long neglect of the created environment, it would be the point of wisdom to perceive and acknowledge the presence of the world within the message of a multitude of biblical texts. Over time we could then present a counter-balance to that "nature-neglect."
 
Jeremiah 31:7-14 is a picturesque description of the Homecoming of God's People. It is their long-awaited return from widely disparate dispersions. Here prophetic vision is earthy, sensory, specific.
 
The "remnant of Israel" embraces "the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here" (31:8). When we are weeping, God brings us to "brooks of water" to walk by, and "a straight path" in which we shall not stumble (31:9). Our homecoming is so good that we become "radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd" (31:12).
 
Here is a People at home in the world. They experience brooks and paths as gifts from God. For them it is a homecoming to God to receive bountiful produce of the land. No wonder "their life shall become like a watered garden" (31:12).
 



John G. Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.   He originally wrote this reflection in 1998.  He and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

<MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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