The Book of Jeremiah contains a complex mix of narrative, personal laments, and oracles. The section that we read today is known as the "Confessions of Jeremiah". The voice of the prophet is heard between the oracles of God. Here, Jeremiah utters cries of distress, describes the problem, and trusts in God's response. Scattered among these laments are oracles in which God, through the prophet, announces the punishment of those who have gone astray. We see trust in human wisdom being contrasted with trust in the Lord. In a land that was dependent on seasonal rains, comparing a barren bush in an arid wasteland with human wisdom would have driven the point home.
As we continue Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, St Paul uses a similar argument by contrasting human reason with divine action. Some members of the Corinthian community were debating the existence of resurrection from the dead. To this, Paul presents an either/or response – "If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised." Therefore, faith is empty and the believers remain in their sin. And if we only have hope in Christ for this earthly life, then essentially why bother? To which Paul answers, "now Christ has been raised from the dead." Paul will go on to explain that Christ's resurrection has both human and divine dimensions, concluding that Christ's resurrection logically leads to our own resurrection.
Both Matthew and Luke include a collection of teachings by Jesus situated either on a mountain (Matthew, ch 5 – 7) or on a plain (Luke, ch 6). Both sermons are given pride of place by the evangelists. In both sermons, Jesus' love command is central. Both place the sermon early in Jesus' ministry in Galilee and it serves as advance teaching for the disciples. But due to their different audiences, Matthew and Luke do not follow the same order or present all the same information. Today's Gospel reading is the opening of Luke's Sermon on the Plain in which Jesus speaks four beatitudes (blessings), closely followed by four "woes.' Throughout Luke's Gospel, Jesus advocates for the lowly and He critiques those who do not use their status and wealth wisely.
The question being asked of us this weekend is: in whom do we trust - human beings, God, or both?
Trust only in one's self makes one barren, empty, Jeremiah says. Trust that this world is all there is makes one pitiable, Paul says. Trust in wealth, food, satisfaction and human praise is fleeting and often leaves one without needed resources for times of lack, hunger, weeping, and ridicule, Luke's Beatitudes makes clear. At those times, it is only trust in the Lord that can keep us going. At those times only belief that life can come out of death, invites hope. At those times, we need to plant ourselves near God's water, to shield us when we need protection and to keep us from fading. God turns everything upside down and is with us when others think that God is absent.
Trusting in God frees us to say: "I don't know" and to seek wisdom in others. Trusting in God frees us to trust the expertise of others who can help us when we cannot help ourselves. Trust in those people who trust in God can offer an example to find peace in the face of fear, hope in the face of despair, and resurrection in the face of death.