Being Called to the Ordinary in These Extraordinary Times
“Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours…” And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver… Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land… For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, It is a desolation, without human beings or animals; it has been given into the hands of the Chaldeans.” – Jeremiah 32: 6-7, 9, 14-15, 42-43
It was a dire time when Jeremiah bought this field in his hometown of Anathoth.
At the beginning of the story, we learn that Jerusalem was under siege by Babylon’s armies, which preceded the city’s fall and destruction and took place concurrently with the deportation of Israel’s population.
Moreover, during the land-buying transaction, Jeremiah himself was confined by King Zedekiah for prophesying about Babylon’s pending victory.
In other words, God commanded Jeremiah to buy this land, and Jeremiah did so, with the clear understanding that Jeremiah would never actually take possession of it.
This was a divine command so confusing that Jeremiah was moved to pray for understanding.
However, though this may look like a foolish investment from a human standpoint, it was a sound investment from the divine one, because of the unambiguous message it sent: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”
This very ordinary action – the redemption of family land, as commanded in Leviticus – in this extraordinary time affirmed that Israel had a future, a future in which the people who were about to know unspeakable disaster would ultimately experience God’s abundant blessing.
Thus, Jeremiah’s ordinary, seemingly pointless, act was both rooted in and pointed towards an extraordinary hope.
The world around us, haunted by the specter of coronavirus, seems bleak.
Everything from economies and healthcare systems to livelihoods and daily routines are under siege, and have been unimaginably tested and altered.
There is plenty to fear, and plenty to grieve.
In the midst of this, we are being called to a Jeremiah moment.
We are surrounded by stories of extraordinary courage, and should celebrate those.
But, just as much, we need to remember that, perhaps, the most extraordinary actions we can take are the most ordinary ones imaginable.
As we adjust to our current reality, let’s not forget the profound hope and faith demonstrated by our dedication to everyday acts: helping children with schoolwork, checking in with loved ones, running errands for the homebound, feeding the hungry, greeting our neighbors (from an acceptable physical distance!), gathering in virtual communities to worship.
Every time we do something like this, or any of the other countless acts of ordinary kindness and decency, we are making a Jeremiah-like investment in God’s promised future.
Like Jeremiah, we may never see what the fruits of our efforts really are, and as time goes on, we might also find ourselves increasingly moved to pray for meaning.
But, we must remember: it is not the discrete actions that matter so much as the faith and hope in God’s sovereignty that they represent.
Even, and especially, in this time, we are invited to take part in constructing the future God promises us.
We were asked to write this post for World Health Day on April 7.
Who knew, at the time, just how much health would be on everyone’s mind?
During this season, perhaps the healthiest things we can do are the most ordinary:
· Keep a routine
· Wash your hands, often and well
· Be patient
· Love and serve others
Each time we do, like Jeremiah, we are investing in God’s past, present, and future goodness, affirming today’s version of this biblical truth: houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
Karen and Travis Webster
Rev. Dr. Karen Webster is co-founder and executive director of the Healthy Seminarians-Healthy Church Initiative, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organized (housed at Columbia Theological Seminary) and validated ministry of Trinity Presbytery (SC). In addition to being an ordained PC(USA) pastor, Karen is certified as an Exercise Physiologist, Nutrition Specialist, and Health and Wellness Coach.
Rev. Travis Webster is the co-founder of the Healthy Seminarians-Healthy Church, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization housed at Columbia Theological Seminary and validated ministry of Trinity Presbytery (SC). In addition, he is a student in the Th.D for Pastoral Counseling program at Columbia Theological Seminary and serves as a pastoral counselor in training at the Training and Counseling Center at St. Luke’s in Atlanta