Bless the Lord – a reflection by Bill Thornton

The Prophet Jeremiah

The Prophet Jeremiah

Today’s post comes courtesy of parishioner Bill Thornton.

In today’s first reading, Jeremiah says in part:

Cursed is the man or woman who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his or her strength in flesh, … but

Blessed is the man or woman who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.

This probably reminds you of Psalm 1, that we talked about on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, and indeed the lesson of the two readings is about the same. However, there is a nuance that I would like to highlight in the today’s reading.

The prophet tells us today the one who trusts in the world, “is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.” On the other hand, the one who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

The phrase that caught my eye in this reading was that the one who does not trust in the Lord “ enjoys no change of season.” At this time of this year I, for one, would enjoy a change of season. But since I didn’t have a clear idea of what the prophet meant with phrase, I thought that I would check some other translations. (I have an app on my Kindle with 37 English translations so it is easy to do.) The concept in all of the other translations, ancient and modern, is that that person would not recognize something good when it happens.

The one who stands back from the Lord, and closes himself or herself off from the life, and the changes in life that the Lord is offering, will end up with a life that is “barren” in a salt and empty earth. To be close to the Lord, we must open ourselves up to the full experience of the life (including the changes and surprises) that is being offered to us, a life – in all likelihood – modeled after the one that Jesus himself lived. It will surely include good seasons and bad seasons, great friendships and painful betrayals, people who come to us and people who leave us, physical and mental pain, and – of course – death.

Somehow, all this got mixed in my mind with Chapter 3 of the Book of Daniel – the incident with the three men in the fiery furnace. For one thing, the three sing:

Cold and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.
Hoarfrost and snow, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.

I turn to these verses whenever winter gets me down. If the discomforts of winter provide blessings, praise and exaltation for the Lord, then bring ’em on! (Although not too far into March.) The great song of praise in Daniel chapter 3, at once announces that the singers are (or are trying to be) people who trust and hope in the Lord, and calls on all creatures to bless, praise and exalt the Lord. These are the people who are willing to accept change from the Lord because they – we – are like the trees planted by the stream whose roots are connected directly to the source of grace. So we pray:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”


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