SERMONETTE PREACHED AT St JOHN’S CATHEDRAL, NAPIEREVENSONG (led by the children’s choir)
20th MARCH 2014
Jeremiah 9.12-24John 7.1-13
Jeremiah was such a miserable dude that for some decades the word “jeremiah” was used to describe someone who was a party pooper, ruining every good get-together … you know, the person who when you are telling ghost stories around the camp fire comes along and says “there’s no such thing as ghosts and go to bed anyway or I’ll tell … et cetera.As it happens there are occasions we need a Jeremiah. There are the times we’re all picking on someone and making their life hell, and it feels really good to be a part of a group even if someone else is suffering, but they probably deserve it anyway, and suddenly someone comes along and stands with the person (or racial or social group) being victimised and says "hey, cut it out because if you give this person a hard time you’ll have me to deal with" and you suddenly realise that this new person is in Year 13 and is the Hawke's Bay Wrestling Champ and maybe not someone to mess with
…Which is not to say Jeremiah weighed 100 kilos and was two metres tall ("six foot tall and made of muscles") and a national or regional champ at wrestling, but he was pretty persistent and it started to seem after a while that every time he said “hey guys cut it out or deep doo-doos are going to happen” and he got ignored that deep doo-doos did happen, and the bullies and others began, reluctantly to take notice. Except some, and they just plotted to murder him, but though it made him unhappy and he even wrote a book called Tears (or Lamentations) they never really shut him up, and he kept on pricking their conscience.
Any of you ever heard of an American punk rock band called “Rise Against”? They’re not quite choristers, but they’ve spent a lot of time, a bit like Jeremiah, telling society off when we get things wrong: when we bully or ignore people, or imprison people unfairly or declare war on people unnecessarily or hurt animals or destroy the planet. They’re not quite choristers and Gary might object if you adopted their vocal techniques but they have a powerful message – check out a song called “Make it Stop” sometime – it’s about people who bully people just because they’re different, and that’s exactly the sort of stuff that got up Jeremiah’s nose and Jesus’ nose for that matter.
Jeremiah got a whole lot of women together and made them wail. When I took Aboriginal funerals in Australia it was a bit like that. The women would wail and wail until the sound was unbearable and it seemed the whole world was crying and then they’d stop and you could breathe and then they’d start again. Jeremiah wanted the women of Israel to do that, and he wanted Israel (his country) to get over itself and some bullying people and to be kind instead … and three thousand years later we’re still hearing his message so maybe occasionally they and we just get, but most of the time we tend to forget and keep on boasting (and bullying is a kind of boasting, too).
Oh, and incidentally, that’s why Jesus’ brothers and sisters didn’t get him at first, either, and no one could understand what he was on about, because like Jeremiah he tried to stop people boasting and bragging and bullying and hating, too …