For more commentary on next week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Living by the Word columns as well as other magazine and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.
Richard Lischer suggests that one of the ways to organize a sermon is around a â€śmaster metaphorâ€ťâ€”that key image on which the sermonâ€™s progress and structure can hang. More often than not, the scripture passage itself gives us the master metaphor.
If itâ€™s difficult for listeners today to connect with the Bibleâ€™s injunctions against idolatry because our own idolatry looks so different, the metaphor of God as â€śfountain of living waterâ€ť being forsaken for self-dug, cracked cisterns is striking. Itâ€™s a memorable image to help us grasp what it means to exchange the glory of God for something that does not profit.
Thomas Merton talks about humanityâ€™s â€śPromethean Theologyâ€ťâ€”our tendency to try to steal from God our own truest selves, our own perfection. The irony, he says, is that this is exactly what God wants to freely give us in giving us Godâ€™s own self. This is a self-centered spirituality,
the rebellion of a Promethean soul who is trying to raid heaven and steal the divine fire for its own glorification. What Prometheus wants is not the glory of God but his own perfection. He has forgotten the terrible paradox that the only way we become perfect is by leaving ourselves, and, in a sense, forgetting our own perfection, to follow Christ.
â€śDigging leaky cisternsâ€ť is not a bad image for the kind of idolatry that seeks to grasp and cling to the soulâ€™s own perfection. The only cure is â€śleaving ourselvesâ€ť and receiving Godâ€™s life as from a free-flowing fountain.
Another direction is to connect the digging of leaking cisterns to the environmental crisis and the United Statesâ€™ dependence on fossil fuels. In 2010, BPâ€™s Deep Water Horizon oil well exploded and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Our dependence on oil for our economy, luxury and security is certainly a kind of idolatry that Jeremiah would denounce. The homiletical challenge is to translate the good news of Godâ€™s being a â€śfountain of living waterâ€ť in relationship to our creation-destroying thirst for oil.