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Isaiah: Touch of the Burning CoalJeremiah: How Long Will the Land Mourn?Ezekiel: From Heart of Stone to Heart of FleshThe Book of the Twelve: Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters

Biblical prophets/Jeremiah: How Long Will the Land Mourn?

Meditation and Reading taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible
All other text by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1: Historical Introduction -
Today's Themes

The problem of evil traces a path through all religious thinking, although different religious traditions have come to very different ways of understanding it. In the Western traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which accept the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and the other Biblical prophets as sacred, the problem is formulated in terms of theodicy: how can a good God allow the prospering of evil? Jeremiah gives eloquent and even painful voice to this question, but he goes on to explore how often the evil in question is the work of humans, who often seek to smooth it over with a veneer of false piety – a tactic, he tells us, which ultimately cannot work.

Call To Worship

What brings us here today, and every time we gather, is not just joy and thanksgiving and community; it is also evil and hatred and deception.

We see evil in our world, hatred in our neighbors, deception in our lives, and we seek a refuge.

How do we avoid falling into bitterness and dwelling in despair? How do we remember joy and thanksgiving?

We come to our community to be reminded.

Let us remember together.


You will be in the right,O Lord,
     when I lay charges against you;
     but let me put my case to you.
Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
     Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
You plant them, and they take root;
     they grow and bring forth fruit;
you are near in their mouths
     yet far from their hearts...
How long will the land mourn,
     and the grass of every field wither?

Jeremiah 12:1-2, 4 (NRSV)


     The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say [to those] that enter these gates to worship the Lord…Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.
     For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place and if you do not go after others gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place…
     Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!” – only to go on doing all these abominations?...You know, I too am watching, says the Lord.

Jeremiah 7:1-11 (NRSV)


The house of the Lord is not a temple or a shrine,
     not a mosque or church,
     not a synagogue or gurdwara.
It is the place where a kind word is spoken,
     where a sorrow is consoled,
where justice is spread wide
     and compassion is open as the skies.
It is where we seek our highest ideals
     and give our deepest loves.

The house of the divine is where we are most human.

May each of our houses
     become a house of the Lord.