Based on Jeremiah 31:27-34, 2Timothy 3:14 – 4:5, Luke 18:1-8
Often in our lives we find ourselves seeking inspiration. Sometimes it is as mundane as looking for a new recipe for dinner to get out of “the same old thing” doldrums. In a similar vein, perhaps you find yourself in a rut in your job or personal life and are looking for something to spark your interest and give you some energy to make a change. Inspiration in that case is simply hoping that a new opportunity will come along that is interesting and challenging. For me, I am constantly looking for inspiration as I sit down in front of a blank page on my computer’s screen to discern “thus saith the LORD” and attempt to communicate that to all of you, or as I seek to enter into relationship with someone and speak to them about God. In those cases, inspiration means that I am seeking the presence of God, through prayer and study of God’s word, so that God might breathe into me God’s wisdom. How about for you? How does inspiration and your seeking after it manifest itself in your lives? In other words, where do you go seeking inspiration?
The oldest known use of the word inspiration in the English language carries a divine connotation. First used in the 14th Century, inspiration meant that a divine being provided a divine influence on a person. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that the word inspiration also meant to take air into the body (opposite of expiration or exhalation). The most current meaning of inspiration – that of being moved by the beauty of the natural world, a person or human action, or a human creation, didn’t come into being until the 19th Century. Isn’t it interesting how over the course of five or six centuries, our human understanding of this one special word has gone from divine intervention to something human and worldly. Not all that surprising really, because over the same time period society went from a world where the divine was very much a part of life to one that became ruled by rationality and enlightenment.
Our scriptures from Psalm 119, 2Timothy and Jeremiah today are calling us back to the inspiration we can receive by spending time with God’s word; of meditating and following the teachings of God. The text from Luke calls us to be inspired by the persistent widow to seek justice; to continue our fight until God’s justice reigns in our world. Let us go now to God seeking inspiration for our lives…
The LORD is speaking through the prophet Jeremiah reiterating the teaching that God’s plan for the people of Judah and Jerusalem is to have them return to their land and be fruitful. They will return with a new covenant, however, with a new divine inspiration on their lives, if you will. This new covenant will not be written on stone tablets but will be carried inside of them – written on their very hearts. In this way, all shall know the LORD “from the least to the greatest – and their iniquity and sin shall be forgiven and remembered no more….”
Jesus has been teaching the Disciples about the end-of-times when the kingdom of God will come to earth. Jesus follows this teaching with a parable about a widow seeking justice from an unjust judge. This widow, who was without power or status in ancient Israel, continued to hound this judge until he was inspired to grant her justice. The judge was like many people in our age – having no fear of God and no respect for others. Yet, he had his mind changed because he was being worn out by the widow’s continual presence. The words “wear me out” can also be translated as “give me a black eye” or basically discredit him and probably cut into his earnings as a judge. Jesus wants his Disciples to be inspired by this narrative to keep constant in prayer about the things around them that require God’s justice.
The writer of 2Timothy is encouraging the faithful to remember how they have been taught. He writes, “…you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,…” It goes on to say, “…I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching…” All this needs to be done because the people will develop “itching ears” and will follow teachers who speak to individual desires rather than of divine truths. Even in this early time of Christianity there were false prophets who would entice the people to move away from the truth of God’s inspired word.
Whether we belong to a faith community or not, all people are seeking inspiration (i.e., seeking meaning and purpose) in their lives. Those of us who do our best to be faith-filled and live according to what we read in the Bible and hear in our worship look to our discipleship – to our ongoing developing relationship to God and one another for our inspiration. We seek inspiration from “The Strange New World Within the Bible” which was described by the theologian Karl Barth. The inspired word of God patiently teaches us that the world we live in is an inaccurate facsimile of the world that God created. This “strange new world” insight inspires us to modify our worldview as a result and calls us into dialogue with God through the Bible and our interactions with the rest of creation.
This engaged dialogue with the Bible means that we must wrestle with what we read, that we must seek inspiration by persistently bringing our questions and acknowledging the Bible’s questions and demands of us. This means that we must examine the answers to our questions and the calls for our full attention very seriously, particularly when we find ourselves in conflict with what we thought we knew or understood of the world when juxtaposed with the “strange new world” contained in the Bible. What I have found is that this dialogue calls into question my “knowns” most of the time. One place where I find this to be true is when I am in dialogue with other believers who are currently oppressed by the same social and economic structures and policies that bring me my privilege and comfort. These oppressed persons hear the call of the persistent widow of the Gospel of Luke and are inspired to hear hope and liberation for themselves. Their rationale is that they pray to the same God who has always been on the side of the poor, marginalized and oppressed – who is a liberating and justice giving God.
There is much wrong with our current world. Yet, I seek my inspiration for hope from my ongoing dialogue with our constantly creating God through prayer and the God-breathed words of the Bible. The God-inspired words of the Bible show me how it is that God wants me to be in relationship with other people and with God. God’s words show me how God wants me and all of us to steward all that was created for us and to persistently seek justice for those who are marginalized and oppressed by the sinful institutions and economic policies which humans have created through greed and self-interest. As the writer of 2Timothy puts it so eloquently, “…All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work….”
I ask you again…where do you go seeking inspiration? If we seek our inspiration from God and do not follow false prophets whose words are self-interested and not inspired by God, then we will find our salvation. Seeking meaning and purpose from God’s inspired word equips us for “every good work”. They are a lamp to our feet and a light to our path; forever calling us to persistently seek justice for all and live out of righteous behaviors. Therefore, let us all be persistent in seeking inspiration from God through prayer, through the study of scripture, through the knowledge of God’s covenant being written within us on our hearts, and in spirited dialogue with God and one another about the many ways that God is at work in our lives and our world. Nothing could be more inspiring than that! Amen and amen!