The Common Good

M2EP Live: Frederick Haynes on God's Grammar

My favorite part of last night's powerful worship service at the Mobilization was when Rev. Frederick Haynes III unpacked Jeremiah 38 -- especially the power of one little word at the start of verse 7: "But".

I can't replicate the inspiration of Rev. Haynes' preaching, but here's the gist of part of his sermon: Jeremiah had got himself in trouble by preaching against the policies of the king during a national "state of emergency." Some people had gone to the king and got a policy that allowed them to torture Jeremiah. They put him in a hole in the ground -- that hole was their Guantanamo Bay. Things were pretty bad in Jerusalem at that time; there was no food in the land, and the economy had been hijacked.

BUT, at the start of verse 7, we meet Ebed-melech -- "an Ethiopian brother with a job at court." Invoking the immortal words of Schoolhouse Rock, Rev. Haynes noted that "but" is a conjunction, hooking up words together, and that it is an adversative conjunction, which means that what comes after it is going to negate what comes before it.

And so what this "but" means is that Ebed-melech had the courage to get involved. He went to the king on Jeremiah's behalf, and he got that policy that threw Jeremiah in the pit reversed. Ebed-melech had a good job in the government -- but he realized that greatness is measured not by how many people you are over, but how many people you get under and help up. He did not give Jeremiah food while he was in the pit -- he got Jeremiah up out of the pit. That's the difference, Rev. Haynes reminded us, between justice and charity.

And God told Ebed-melech that, throughout the time of war, God was going to give him insurance coverage, because "God is concerned not just with our hallelujahs, but with our do-lelujahs."

Amen to that!

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