Preacher: The Rev’d Canon Jenny Wilson, Canon Precentor 

 In the name of God, creating, redeeming, sanctifying, … Amen.

This morning, the First Sunday of Advent, we hear the voice of the prophet Jeremiah. Advent is a time for hearing the voice of the prophets. For sitting with that voice. It is a voice of poetry. There is nothing logical or certain in the voice of the prophet. But the voice of poetry creates possibility. The possibility of hope. The radical possibility of God.

God speaks through Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. …..’ (Jeremiah 33:14-16)

Jeremiah writes in the time of exile, a time of great loss. The certainty of the world centred for the people of Judah in Jerusalem, city of king and temple, has been shattered. There is only loss and displacement. The people are exiled from home in Babylon and there, the prophet Jeremiah speaks an uncomfortable truth. A staggered truth. A truth of loss and then a truth of hope. The prophet Jeremiah weeps for the city of Jerusalem and the stubborn and foolish inhabitants who betrayed their God. Jeremiah places right at the feet of those people responsibility for their fate.

 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
(Jeremiah 2:4-5)


Right at the heart of the place of loss, then, Jeremiah speaks another word of poetry, a word of hope. “The days are surely coming …The days are surely coming, when I will fulfil the promise I made,” says the Lord. The longing of God in these words is palpable.

The Old Testament scholar, Walter Bruggemann, writes about the prophet Jeremiah: “Jeremiah’s language is free, porous and impressionistic – he is a poet. … Poets have no advice to give people. They only want people to see differently, to re-envision life. They are not coercive. They only try to stimulate, surprise, hint, and give nuance, not more. They cannot do more, because they are making available a world that does not yet exist beyond their imagination …”[1]

In other words, prophets do not tell us what to do. They paint a picture of a different world.

Walter Brueggemann expresses great faith in the power of utterance. He describes the voice of longing of those waiting in exile, those, perhaps, waiting in churches and cathedral this First Sunday in Advent:  ““Is there any word from the Lord?” (Jer 37:17) We reach out, in fear and hope, to be addressed by newness, because we know the human spirit will wither if there is no address.”[2]  The prophet Jeremiah speaks “at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up, Brueggemann reflects, “This is indeed a word from the outside … a word that comes in the way of poetry, that offers no explanation, no certainty, …It is a moment of utterance! ….everything has now been changed by the poetic utterance, because the poetry cannot be unsaid …The word has been uttered and there is a whisper of an alternative world in the air.”[3]

When the poet prophet utters a word of hope; when the voice of the prophet proclaims the presence of God, speaks comfort in the voice of God, that utterance has power. The power to give hope. And that utterance cannot be washed away, cannot be unsaid. That utterance exists and so “everything has now been changed.”

Brueggemann also notes, “Every centre of power fears poets, because poets never fight fair.”[4] Poets don’t use logic. Poets don’t use persuasion. Unlike many centres of power, poets certainly don’t use guns.

The greatest poet, the Son of God, certainly did not “fight fair”. He, at times, even used silence.

This morning’s gospel reading from the 21st chapter of the Gospel of Luke has the one who speaks and is the Word of God, using that subversive literary form, poetry:

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25-28)

Does it feel a little like this, our world, at this time? Are we fainting from fear and foreboding at the violence that has taken place in the world, in recent weeks, at the bushfires that have brought such devastation to people who live just kilometres away, in recent days? Could we imagine ourselves standing up and raising our heads? Might we possibly believe that at this time, as in so many times of struggle in world history, redemption is near?

Prophets, poets, come in many guises. Social media a week or so ago showed a reporter interviewing a father and his little boy gazing at the sea of flower tributes in Paris at the scene of the Bataclan attacks.

“Do you understand what happened?” the reporter asked the little boy. “Do you understand why people did that?”

“Because they are really, really mean.” The little boy said. “Bad guys are not very nice” “And,” he said to his father particularly, “we have to be really careful because we have to change houses.”

“Oh no, don’t worry, we don’t have to move out.” Said the little boy’s father. “France is our home.”

“Yes,” said the little boy, “but there’s bad guys everywhere. They have guns. They can shoot because they are really mean, Daddy.”

“It’s OK,’ said the Dad, “they might have guns but we have flowers.”

“But flowers don’t do anything. They’re for … They’re for …”

“Of course they do. Look.” Said the father. “Everyone’s putting flowers. It’s to fight against guns.”

“It’s to protect?”  Said the little boy.


“And the candles too?” Asked the little boy.

“It’s to remember the people who are gone yesterday.” Said his father.

“The flowers and the candles are here to protect us?”


“Do you feel better now?”

“Yes I feel better.” Said the little boy.

“Everyone’s putting flowers. It’s to fight against guns.”

Comfort for a little boy? Or could this possibly be the voice of God?

“Comfort, comfort ye my people,” said a different prophet, the prophet Isaiah, to a people displaced from home.

It’s not about proof, d’you see? It’s not about evidence. It’s not about reasoned argument. It’s about whispers from another world. Our world known as made and loved by God.

Yes, prophets speak a different truth.

The days are surely coming, says the Lord [through the prophet Jeremiah], when I will fulfil the promise I made … and [all] will live in safety. …..

“Everyone’s putting flowers. It’s to fight against guns.”

Said a father to his little boy, beside a scene of carnage, a week or so ago in Paris.


[1] Walter Brueggemann Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile pp23-4.

[2] Brueggemann, The Word Militant – Preaching a Decentering Word  , p3.

[3] Ibid, p8.

[4] Brueggemann Hopeful Imagination p41.