Cursing and Coaxing
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Holy One: “Thus says the Holy One, the God of Israel: Cursed be anyone who does not heed the words of this covenant, which I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” – Jeremiah 11:1, 3
In churches I’ve served, we have emphasized coaxing rather than cursing. After all, who’s going to volunteer for a Sunday morning scolding? Besides, we have learned that asset-based approaches—in which you build on the skills and resources you already have—generate a lot more enthusiasm than focusing on what you don’t have. Honey is usually tastier than vinegar.
“Cursed be anyone who does not heed!” Why would Jeremiah choose such a cutting, diminishing word?
Maybe that’s what it would take to pierce the power of my unconcern, which some days threatens to smother.
Maybe Jeremiah was aiming to break through the most suffocating spirit-less defenses a person can muster: “Whatever.” “It is what it is.”
It’s easy to think that letting your primary intimate relationship (hint: that’s the one with God) take a back seat for a while is okay, because forgiveness. Jeremiah sounds like one who knows the costs when love slips to second- or third-place in receiving attention.
Maybe Jeremiah’s curse is an urgent warning: indifference is the heaviest baggage of all.
Whatever it takes to wake me, Holy One, I will give you thanks. Today I strive to put aside apathy, to cast off carelessness, to discard disinterest. By coax or by curse, whatever it takes, lead me once more to the trouble and beauty of being fully alive in your wholeness, harmony, justice, and joy. So be it. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. John A. Nelson is Pastor and Teacher of the Congregational Church of Salisbury (CT).