The Time Machine

Sept. 22, 2019: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

The harvest is past, the summer is ended and we are not saved. – Jeremiah 8:21

 For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. 8:22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?  9:1 O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!

Paul Tillich reminds that it is hard to speak after the prophet has spoken. Jeremiah is a master of the lament. He leads us to the point of despair. Perhaps we need to share such honest grief, get over it, and move on with life. Jeremiah did that very thing in 31:31.“The days are coming says the Lord when I will make a new covenant…I will write it on their hearts, I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” 

Once in a low moment in my life, after fighting death, only to lose a spouse, I found a lonely place and got away from my normal routines. I was tired of words of condolence and helpful prayers.  In that place I also discovered that “alone is not good company” either.

Then I found these thoughts.  I now call it:

The Time Machine*

I wish that we had a new machine.  Surely with our technology, we could create such a device. It would take back all of the really rotten stuff that we have done, recover the words that got away, and fix those moments of unfaith when we failed people who depend upon us. You know, it would just redeem the past and make things right for everyone.

This machine would also capture special moments, freeze time, hold it fast—never let it go—the first time you saw your children and their lives at each stage. We missed so much and they grew up when we were not looking.

It would catch the autumn moment when maple trees catch fire in their hair, and retrieve those moments when we were with our parents before they got too old, too tired. We all got too busy and, in our hurry, time won the hour.

It would give back birthdays, Christmas past, graduations, and those moments in our history when we might have stood for justice, only we didn’t. We could return to those times when we almost told the truth but at the last minute wimped out.

Of course there is no machine like that and each moment fades. The days dwindle down to a precious few. But no machine is needed. Faith teaches that everything done or left undone has been received by God. Who we are each moment becomes a moment of eternity. Everyone gets a second or a seventieth chance if we ask. God has been revealed to us in Jesus as love, so that nothing and no one is forgotten or lost in this world or the next. 

I think about such things as I read the weeping prophet Jeremiah and hope that the church that I love will come to its senses and avoid a time that is not unlike the Salem Witch trials.  

* The Time Machine is borrowed from A Madison County Journal, by Bill Cotton and used with permission from The Iowan Books, c. 2011.

The Rev. Bill Cotton of Des Moines is a retired clergy member of the Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Together with friends and colleagues he produces MEMO for Those Who Preach, an email newsletter designed to help preachers interpret texts from the Revised Common Lectionary. 

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