On Sunday I preached on Jeremiah 31: 27-34. I think that had I not listened to Rob Bell’s sermon podcast on Ezekiel 18 I’d have preached about something else… but the idea of ‘sour grapes’ and ‘paying for the sins of our fathers’ got me.
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
I wonder how often we think that we are trapped by the past? And by the past I don’t even mean our past, I mean the past that has been handed down to us.
That’s certainly how the Israelites in exile in Babylon felt. They are slaves, born into a brutal life of work and punishment in a strange land… and it wasn’t even their fault. It was their ancestors who had strayed, their ancestors who forgot how to live, their ancestors who cause this to happen and there is nothing they can do about it.
We do what the did all the time… blame the parents.
In some ways we know that parenting has a huge effect on how children view the world but that can only be part of the story. At some point we grow into adults and take responsibility for our own lives. Or we spend the rest of our days being controlled and dominated by our past, or the past that was passed on to us by our ancestors.
It happens in life and in church.
I wonder if our teeth are on edge because our parents ate sour grapes?
I think they might be.
Look at all the stuff we have inherited. Buildings, forms of worship, patterns of meeting, words, symbols and songs.
But what if they don’t work in this place and in this time? Do we simply blame our ancestors? Do we put up with clenched teeth?
Or does there come a time when we must move on?
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
It seems that Jeremiah was telling the people that they will be judged on what they have done and that the sins of their fathers are not their problem.
So, perhaps it’s time to move on. Time to build something new. Time to stop blaming our ancestors for their bad choice in fruit…