28 December 2013

Jeremiah 31:15-17

“Your children shall come back to their own country” (v 17)


The voice heard in Ramah is an ancient and pitiful sound. Weeping for her children, Rachel is the voice of countless parents throughout the ages. Her refusal to be comforted is the tragic reality, they are no more. We need, hard though it is, to pause in lamentation. Lamentation is an old word, seldom used, not sadly because it is needed no more, but because we dare not pause as long as we should at the sorrow that is humanity's lot. We weep with Jeremiah for the children who are no more. They are no more because they have died through hunger, injustice and neglect. They are no more because their childhood ended in the bone-weary ache of long labour in sweat shops around the world. They are no more because adults took their innocence in abuse of body, mind and spirit. We weep because they are no more, our lamentation echoing down the centuries in a dull, repetitive moaning of despair.

But the prophet speaks into Ramah, and challenges Rachel's refusal to be comforted. The impossible promise is made to a mother devastated by the loss of her children: "Your children shall come back to their own country" (v. 17). How are we to understand this in our lamentation for the children "who are no more" (v. 15)? Can God raise the dead? Can God restore justice and childhood to the exploited and bone-weary child labourer? Can God restore innocence to the cruelly abused bodies, minds and spirits of children throughout the ages?

But this is what the prophet's claims, and bids us put our sorrow away, not because what is and was and sadly will be no longer matters, but because it matters so much that all will be put right, and we are called to be part of that future now.

To Ponder

  • To what extent do you need to pause and lament sometimes and not hurry away from the sadness of the world?
  • What difference do the words, "your children shall come back to their own country" make to you now?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.