Oh those crazy knights who say “Ni!” What do they require of us this time?
The vast majority of us have run into groups of people who require us to jump through their hoops in order for us to advance another step. Many times we cannot see the purpose of jumping through this particular hoop. Sometimes that is because we do not know or fully understand what is on the other side and they do. Sometimes that is because there is no purpose to jumping through the hoop. They force us to do it just because they can. We call that preparation. We also call it hazing. The difference is often in the eye of the beholder.
The bottom line is that the ones who are in charge make the rules. If you want to change the rules, you have to become one of the ones in charge. Unfortunately, in the process of becoming one of the ones in charge there is a very real danger of being assimilated. Then we no longer have the desire to change those rules or make them more fair. We find we like the power of being in charge. We like the power of telling others what they have to do in order to enter or participate. We become one with the Borg.
I think this is exactly the kind of thing that Jesus was fighting against and why he was always getting on the wrong side of the religious leaders. They had hoops a plenty for everyone to jump through. Jesus said, “Nah, just do this: Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor (and by the way, anyone who needs you is your neighbor.)” The religious leaders had something like 613 laws (no, I didn’t pull that figure out of thin air, I read it on the interwebs) to deal with. The vast majority of them boiled down to idolatry and we are not supposed to be worshiping other gods or worshiping the way in which other religions do.
That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is where my all time favorite law comes from. “Thou shalt not boil a kid in its own mother’s milk.” First let me point out we are talking about a young goat, not a child (although there are laws against offering your children as a sacrifice to the gods. Of course, if they are disobeying you then you are allowed to stone them to death, but not as a sacrifice to a god.) Second let me point out that this law is mentioned word for word more than once. That means people were doing and doing it enough that it needed to be repeated.
There are all kinds of laws what we simply do not obey any more. We don’t even bother to learn what most of them are. No point in teaching them if we are just going to ignore them. Somewhere along the line somebody, or more likely somebodies, decided that we just don’t need to jump through those particular hoops any more.
Today’s reading is from the prophet Jeremiah. Please, no bullfrog jokes. I hate that song. I have always hated that song, but that’s a post for another day. Jeremiah had a lot to say but like most of the prophets most of it boiled down to “you are not doing what is right in the sight of God. Shape up or there will be consequences.” In today’s reading (Jeremiah 17: 5-10) he tells us that those who trust in mere mortals and whose hearts turn away from God will be like a shrubbery in the desert.
Shrubberies do not last long in the desert. They have shallow roots and need water and attention in order to thrive. We are called not to be like shrubberies that wither and die at the first hardship or bad weather. We are called to be like strong, tall trees that grow next to flowing streams – with long, deep roots to hold us steady and close to water of life that nourishes us.
If we come before you and require of us a shrubbery, we will acquiesce. Sure, we’ll get you a shrubbery if that’s what we really want and that’s what it takes. But we know that sturdy trees with long roots are more preferable. And when we are in charge, we will call upon the people to plant trees.