The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is pastor of the Ashburnham Community Church in Ashburnham, MA, and the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing a Relational Food Ministry.
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:31-40 (NRSV)
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name:
If this fixed order were ever to cease
from my presence, says the Lord,
then also the offspring of Israel would cease
to be a nation before me for ever.
Thus says the Lord:
If the heavens above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth below can be explored,
then I will reject all the offspring of Israel
because of all they have done,
says the Lord.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate towards the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.
Reflection: Righteous Anger
The days are surely coming when I can get a COVID vaccine. Right?
To be honest, I've really held off on worrying about this vaccine. When pressed in discussions of how to get it, and who can get it, and which one to get, I've just said, "I'll wait my turn." A friend said, "but you are going to get it" and I got impatient. "Yes, I'll get it. But I'm not going to spend time fretting about it."
Then it was my turn. I went to the website to schedule a vaccine about 10 minutes after I was authorized. The website crashed. And now I am fretting. Refreshing the screen. Texting others, whining on Facebook, pounding my desk. Lent is a time of reflection, quiet, of giving things up. But suddenly I’m obsessed with getting what is rightfully mine.
We focus, as Christians, mostly on Jeremiah’s lovely image of God’s covenant written on our hearts. “I will be their God and they will be my people” says our creator. That is appealing. I’m ready for this new day! One where God’s love is expressed in vaccinations and a chance to visit with my family and my friends.
I remember when we locked down, just about a year ago, when we shut everything down for two weeks so we could flatten the curve. The days are surely coming when this is over, right?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. As much as I wish for it, prophets do not predict the future. Instead they tell us what to do with present. And Jeremiah is talking here about the ways we have, I have, broken God’s covenant. What would it mean to consider the ways I have not been faithful? If God’s word is not on my heart, today, this minute, right now, here in the middle of these hard times, what can I do to fix that?
I will need to calm down. Take a deep breath. Focus my breath on God. Perhaps picture my heart with the word Love written on it. Righteous anger has its place, mostly in critique of a system that has not enough vaccines, and not enough effort to get them to those suffering the most. Yelling at my computer is not an example of righteous anger.
It is so easy to see all the world through an interpersonal lens. “This is hurting me.” But the interpersonal lens is quite narrow. It hides systemic oppression—for example the reality there are not enough vaccines and that we aren’t making sure what we have is accessible to black and brown communities. And it hides cultural oppression—our unwarranted confidence that everyone has computers to make appointments and transportation to get to vaccination centers.
When I can stop focusing on the interpersonal, when I can calm down, I can see that the fact that it is hard for me to get an appointment is not the big problem here. Solving COVID is not, mostly, about me.
Which begs the question—what is this covenant that I want written on my heart? Is it a promise that all will be okay? Or is it a promise that I will work for equality, that I will pay attention to my neighbor, that I will give God the righteousness They are seeking in our world?
The days are surely coming when my heart will ache for God’s covenant of justice.
God of all people, write your covenant on my heart. Help me to see the systems and cultures and assumptions that maintain oppression, and to work to change our ways. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the nearly 531,000 dead due to the Covid-19 disease (the lowest increase since early last spring)
- For the victims and their families of the 92 mass shootings already carried out in 2021
- For the family and friends of Diane Feldman, a longtime Administrator at Pilgrim Day Camp in Framingham, MA. Diane died on Mar. 2
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the season of Lent
- For those administering vaccines 7 days a week as the nation tries to put an end to this pandemic
This Week in History:
March 18, 1942 (79 years ago) The U.S. creates the War Relocation Authority allowing the internment of "people of Japanese descent" in "relocation centers". In response to the fear and anger toward Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, over 120,000 men, women, and children were detained on the West Coast and relocated to camps in 7 states. Gordon Hirabayashi fought internment all the way to the Supreme Court arguing that the U.S. Army had violate his rights as a U.S. Citizen, but the court ruled against him citing the nation's right to protect itself from sabotage and invasion. The camps did not evacuate detainees until after the war ended, despite the U.S. military creating a combat unit of Japanese Americans who fought the war in Europe and became one of the most decorated fighting units in history.
St. Patrick and St. Cuthbert
March 17 is the feast day for St. Patrick, when everyone celebrates they’re Irish, except for Patrick, who was born a Briton (ca. 389-461). Everyone wears green, except for Patrick, whose saint’s color is blue. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates when he was a youth and taken to Ireland. After six years he escaped and returned home to Britain. There he studied to become a monk and eventually returned to Ireland. In time he established his see in Armagh, in Northern Ireland. From there he was responsible for evangelizing much of Ireland, although he himself never spent much if any time in southern Ireland. His Breastplate is the poem most closely attributed to him.
March 20 is the feast of St. Cuthbert, a Celtic Christian in England. He became a monk and eventually the abbot at Lindisfarne. This became a great monastic and missionary center in the 7th century and beyond. Both these saints are examples of Gaelic/Celtic spirituality. Its poetry is especially noted for the lilting repetition of phrases, the beauty and lushness of nature, and the focus on the Trinity.
So on this St. Patrick’s Day, celebrate Ireland and Celtic spirituality, and watch out for the snakes (sic)!
(contributed by Rev. John Van Epps, SNEUCC Archivist)
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is a writer, pastor, and workshop leader living in Berlin, Massachusetts. She is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing Relational Food Ministries and the founder of Worcester ...