Beheading of John the Baptist

That reading from Jeremiah is so stirring: “I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall, against the whole land—kings, princes, priests, people—they will fight against you but they shall not prevail, for I am with you, says God, I will deliver you.”
Stirring… but a lie. Jeremiah gets to prophecy disaster and to experience it. To denounce and be denounced. He speaks the coming doom and has it fall upon his head. The presence of God doesn’t spare him agony and humiliation and defeat. He is no more delivered by Adonai than John is delivered by Jesus. No wonder Jeremiah rants against the God who has seduced him and made his every word a sentence of death. No wonder John languishes in his cell wondering whether his awaited Messiah has come or not.
Who would be a prophet?! Who would want to speak hard words to implacable powers? Not Jeremiah and not me!
“Whew!,” we can say at the start of another Semester, “Thank God we are called to be theologians and not prophets, students and not prophets, administrators and not prophets. Thank God our words are our own!” But they are not! They burn our tongues as they leave our lips. What else is theology but words spoken about God, words written for God, words heard from God? And what can this place be but a place of prophecy? Haven’t we been called to here to hear God speak, to interpret the ache of our hearts and the world’s longing, to hear so that we may speak? So we might give God back the voice God has given us?
But God we do not know how to speak, we are like children, our words halting, unsure and the powers are vast and uncaring. Maybe theology was a mistake after all…
“Do not be afraid. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. No, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. For I am with you to deliver you.”

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