Jeremiah 2: 4-13

The great British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, once referred to his long-time rival William Gladstone as “a sophisticated rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity.”[1] In a similar vein, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats once declared that a rhetorician deceives his neighbours, while the sentimentalist deceives only himself[2].  In both cases, rhetoric – that is, the art of public speaking – is depicted as a mechanism for deception; and those who practice it – rhetoricians – as people whose motives are not to be trusted.  Continue reading “Jeremiah 2: 4-13”

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Jeremiah 1: 4-10

In his wonderful book Letters to New Pastors, the American Presbyterian minister and pastoral scholar Michael Jinkins describes a situation in which one of his ministerial colleagues is approached by a young woman convinced that she has a call to ordained ministry.  When the colleague tries to encourage the young woman to test this sense of call, to discern whether it really comes from God or from her own ego, she responds, not just with a strident assertion that it is God who is calling her, but with a threat that unless the minister facilitates her candidacy, she will convince her father, a wealthy patron, to withdraw financial support from the congregation. Continue reading “Jeremiah 1: 4-10”

Luke 12: 32-48; Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20

Today’s readings present us with some challenging passages – indeed, the kind of passages which often elicit a strongly negative response.  In today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus talks of the unprepared and the unvigilant receiving a severe beating; and in Isaiah, the prophet warns of the disobedient and the wilful being “devoured” by the sword.  This is startlingly blunt and violent language, shocking in its explicit and uncompromising nature; and it is the kind of language that many people not only find deeply troubling, but which causes them to respond with an angry rejection of the text itself. Continue reading “Luke 12: 32-48; Isaiah 1: 1, 10-20”