Proper 24 (RCL) Sour Grapes or Honey?
Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8
There are more receptors on the human tongue for sweet tastes as opposed to bitter or sour ones. According to scientists, we are predisposed to seeking out those things which are sweet, even as we first emerge from the womb.
How many of us has heard the term 'sour grapes' (often on a little league baseball team)? My interpretation of the expression was 'sore loser'. That interpretation clashes drastically with the passage this morning from Jeremiah. In the Torah when someone evoked the wrath of God by sinning, that sin and its shame was passed from generation to generation. It has a vague parallel in karma and reincarnation: if you really messed things up in this life you would be paying for it in the succession of your next lives.
The prophet Jeremiah passes on some very good news to the peoples of Israel and Judah that, simply put, your sins were your own and would not be passed on to anyone else. If you ate sour grapes, the bitterness stayed in your mouth; this bitterness need not be spread to your children. God changed the letter and the spirit of the Law. There would be more justice, more kindness. Instead of viewing the Law of God as a yoke or burden, God instead would write His Law on their hearts. It would become a yearning, a longing to follow rather than an oppressive regimen. God's Laws - including forgiveness - would be known and accessible to all, not a chosen few. The love of God was abundant and available to all.
The Psalm for today reflects the love for God's revitalized Law - the very words of the Law 'are sweeter than honey to my mouth'. Following the Law of God was becoming a labor of love and enlightenment rather than an imposed obligation.
Paul's letter to Timothy resonates with the psalm and enriched by the teachings and guidance of Christ. The New Covenant through Jesus should be viewed as constructive, informative. With Christ as the cornerstone of faith, new converts were to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ with conviction, encouragement and patience. As Paul knew from personal experience, the work of an evangelist was not easy yet was a profound and solid ministry. He also warned the early teachers to be consistent. There were false prophets and teachers around who, through saying what people wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear would gain converts based on flimsy doctrine.
Finally, from Luke's perspective, persistence reaps its rewards whether with an 'unjust judge' or God himself. God will grant ultimate, true Justice - which is the jurisdiction of God alone. That being said, Jesus asks a telling question to His contemporary disciples and to each of us today: When Jesus comes to us, we He find faith on earth? Will the Law of God, once written on our hearts, be evident in our practices? Will we count on God alone for our salvation and forgiveness, not on our deeds or our 'goodness'.
Keeping the faith alive and well is not the job of a chosen few. Through our Baptismal Covenant with God, it is our job as well. Will He find us grumbling due to the sour grapes taste of resented obligation in our mouths, or will He find us content, savoring the sweet taste of wisdom, knowledge, patience and love?
The commission was His; the response is ours alone. What will it be...sour grapes or honey?