Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Jeremiah 4:5-21) transports me to the main hall of Malfoy Manor, with the villainous Bellatrix Lestrange holding Hermione Granger at knife point as Hermione’s friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley attempt a rescue. Bellatrix was supporting Hermione, who seemed to be unconscious, and was holding her short silver knife to Hermione’s throat. “Drop your wands,” she whispered. “Drop them, or we’ll see exactly how filthy her blood is!” Ron stood rigid, clutching Wormtail’s wand. Harry straightened up, still holding Bellatrix’s. “I said, drop them!” she screeched, pressing the blade into Hermione’s throat: Harry saw beads of blood appear there. “All right!” he shouted, and he dropped Bellatrix’s wand onto the floor at his feet.” To the rescue comes the house elf Dobby, and the three friends and Dobby disapparate, but not before the enraged Bellatrix throws her knife. It is only when they reappear on the sandy shore at Shell Cottage that they discover the fate of that knife throw. Dobby was mortally wounded, and in one of the saddest scenes in the whole series, speaks his last words to his friend Harry Potter. It is a bitter loss for Harry.
In a chapter warning the covenant community of impending disaster at the hands of their enemies, the prophet Jeremiah inserts some bold talk. He paints God in a villainous light; accusing God of being a deceiver, tricking the people of Israel by promising them peace and then holding a knife to their throats, ultimately piercing their hearts with a bitter punishment. I can just picture a deranged Helena Bonham Carter playing the part of Jeremiah’s enraged and villainous God, first holding the covenant community at knife point, and finally hurling the knife, piercing Jerusalem’s heart with a mortal wound. Jeremiah’s dramatic portrayal of God raises the same question people in the Mugglenet community have pondered about Bellatrix Lestrange – why did this incredibly powerful witch need a knife in the first place, when she could have just as easily spoken the forbidden Cruciatis Curse or the dreaded Avada Kadavra killing curse? Why did the Lord Almighty need to be wielding a knife, when a mere word would do?
I imagine the answer might lie in the sense of drama and imagination employed by the prophet. He’s basically saying the same thing the Rishis of the Rig Veda were saying – harmful actions will bring about harmful effects, ie, there’s karma at work in this world. The people of faith’s infidelity would come back to bite them in the butt, or pierce them in the heart. Jeremiah, as the other Hebrew prophets, simply had more of a flair for the dramatic than the early Hindu writers, painting a picture of this karmic causality, even to the point of painting a picture of a deceptive, villainous, knife-wielding God. The moral of the story seems to be this: love is not fluffy, and peace is not passive. There is a fierceness to the sacred work of grace and mercy. In the face of idolatry, when people get consumed by and captivated by the culture’s idols of greed, violence, discrimination, and fear, don’t expect the Holy to sit by idly. The forces of compassion, in allowing the karma to flow into the fields of infidelity, will on occasion make us infidels feel like we have a knife at our throats, or that we’ve been pierced to the core with a bitter wound. The piercing has a gracious purpose, though. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, it’s a sword that heals. It’s designed to bring us back into faithful covenant living, demonstrating to the world the values of love, of welcome, of generosity, of mercy.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.