- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Ronald C. Crocker at St. George's Episcopal Church in Arlington, Va.

In her book "The Rising," Wendy Wright tells us, "If you think you sense the will of God in your life in some long-range, highly detailed plan, … that is not the will of God." But when you "sense that the next, very hesitant step beyond which you can see nothing is in fact the step that must be taken, that is most likely the will of God for you."
Today's Bible readings call us to follow the will of God, and you may ask, "How can I be certain what God's will is for me?"
The prophet Jeremiah might ask you, "What does your heart tell you?" We perceive the heart as a place of emotion. Jeremiah is even known as the "weeping prophet" for his passionate laments. But this account from Jeremiah [17:5-10] shows that he understands the heart as the seat of one's will, the place of decision-making.
As one Bible commentary says, Jeremiah was like Moses: Jeremiah "described the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the Torah by contrasting a life marked by 'blessing' and one marked by 'curses.'" Those who put their trust in mortal flesh rather than Yahweh are cursed; those who trust in Yahweh are blessed. Those who trust, Jeremiah said, are like the tree planted by water, "sending out its roots by the stream." Those who trust in mortal flesh are like parched shrubs in the desert.
Jeremiah's vision is for people to have the law, or Torah, written not on tablets or scrolls, but upon their hearts. The English word "law" is not adequate for the Hebrew word "Torah." Nor is Torah just the first five books of the Bible. Torah is a way of encountering God.
The Torah referred to in Psalms is both the story of how Yahweh created a people and also those peoples' obligations. "Happy are they who have not walked in the council of the wicked," says the Psalms. "Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and they meditate on His law day and night." We should understand that happiness is not a state of bliss, but a devotion to a certain way of life.
Today we also read Jesus saying [Luke 6:17-26], "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now… . But woe to you who are full now." The people had gathered because of Jesus' power to heal body and spirit. But at this point, Jesus has changed from itinerant miracle worker to teacher, leader and visionary. Jesus tells the newly gathered disciples the demands of following Him.
Jesus took aside these disciples, who were poor and backwater people, and tells them they are blessed because they have accepted a journey for which others will mock and revile them. He tells them to take heart; their choice will not go unrewarded. To enter the kingdom, Jesus says, they must finally love their enemies and forgive those who abuse them.
"Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord." But you may ask, "How can I know for sure." The answer is, "You cannot know." Like the people listening to Jeremiah and Jesus, we have the information needed to decide to follow, to change our lives. We have the Bible. We have history. We have people's stories of witness. We have all we need. Nevertheless, we want something more.
We want what no one can give us. We want to be certain. But certainty comes from experience, and experience from doing. We cannot know without following. We have all the information, so now it is the time to decide, to choose, to act. Walk Torah. Meditate on the Torah and on "the way" Jesus taught, and in your heart you will know.
You will know because you are like Jeremiah's tree. Your roots will find the stream's life-giving water, and in dry spells the tree offers fruit. This knowing becomes your certitude. You will be blessed, happy, fortunate. You will be in the heart of God. Happy are those who take the next step on "the way."

Next week: a sermon by Cardinal-designate Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington.

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