“Until the Day is Night and Night Becomes the Day”
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In 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. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
17 For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, 18 and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices for all time.
19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 Thus says the Lord: If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, 21 only then could my covenant with my servant David be broken, so that he would not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with my ministers the Levites.
When I was interviewing to be pastor here at Stone House Presbyterian, the search committee asked me a bunch of questions. What is your vision for church? How have you grown in your faith? Who do you like to read?
But my favorite question of all was, “What is your favorite song?”
I was surprised by that question. I didn’t have any notes ready to answer that one. But it was one I really enjoyed. Because I had an answer for them right away. And no, it wasn’t a hymn. It wasn’t a Chris Tomlin or David Crowder or Matt Redman song. It wasn’t Taize or Iona music or anything I had ever heard sung in worship.
Instead, it was Stevie Wonder. It was Stevie’s song called, “As.”
Now if you have never heard the song “As” I invite you to run out these doors and buy and listen to his album Songs in the Key of Life as fast as you can. It is possibly the greatest album I have ever heard, and I think everyone should listen to it at least once in their life. And on the second side is the best song of the whole album.
“As” is a love song. It can be heard as a love song between two people. That’s what it seems to be on its surface. But I have always heard it differently. The love in it is too strong, too eternal for it to come from a flawed human like you and me. It’s a love that is all encompassing, healing all evil and hate, and is offered to us completely free. I always heard this song as Stevie Wonder singing about God’s love for us. The opening lyrics go like this:
As around the sun the earth knows she’s revolving
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May
Just as hate knows love’s the cure
You can rest your mind assure
That I’ll be loving you always.
As now I can’t reveal the mystery of tomorrow
But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all is born is new
Do know what I say is true
That I’ll be loving you always
This love is beautiful. But it is also powerful. So powerful that nothing can ever stop it. This love will go on forever. It will go on, as Stevie sings:
Until the rainbow burns the stars out in the sky
Until the ocean covers every mountain high
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at sea
Until 8 times 8 times 8 is four
Until the trees and seas just jump and fly away
Until the day is night and night becomes the day.
That lost promise, “Until the day is night and night becomes the day,” isn’t one that just Stevie Wonder sings about. It is a promise told to us in our passage for today, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah 2,500 years ago:
“If any of you could break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their appointed time, only then could my covenant …be broken.”
Jeremiah is telling us, no matter how many mistakes we make, no matter how broken and hurtful this world gets, no matter how messed up everything can become, we can’t break God’s covenant of love. God’s promise of love and faithfulness is too strong for any powers here on earth. It’s stronger than sin. It’s stronger than hate. It’s stronger than evil. Jeremiah is telling us that it is as impossible for us to make God turn away from us, as it is impossible for us as humans to make the daytime turn to night and night become the day.
Whatever we do, whatever mess we are in, whatever acts we have committed, whatever troubles we know, God isn’t giving up. God is going to keep on loving us and working for healing, harmony, and shalom. God is still working to bring us back and lead us into abundant and everlasting life.
This may be a message that is easy for us to hear when times are going well. But Jeremiah proclaims it not when all is well, but when all is at its most messed up. For decades the leaders of his community have not listened to God. They have mistreated their neighbors. They have gone after greed and self-worship. The kings of Israel and Judah have hurt their own people, especially the most vulnerable: widows, orphans, and immigrants. And now the Babylonians are finishing the job. They have come into the city to tear it to the ground. Neighbors are starving. Houses are demolished. Friends are being taken away in chains. Even the Temple, the physical sign of God’s presence and glory, is being toppled over. All looks lost.
But then God speaks. And God says, “I haven’t come close to giving up on my people or on my world yet. I’m not done. Look out for what I am about to do.” And then God promises to bring about a future king, a king of justice and righteousness, who will come from the branch of David. A king who will make us right with God and each other again. A king who will show God’s love in a whole new way.
We may not be in the same situation as Jeremiah was. But we still know days of brokenness. We still know days of pain and suffering. We still know days when evil and hate and sin seem so strong, and we don’t know where to turn. We still are seeking that true peace of shalom in our communities and in our hearts.
For those days, Jeremiah’s message is for us. God’s love is still working and planning and moving in this world. The king of justice and righteousness is on his way. And nothing we can do, no mistakes we can make, can stop that king from loving us, healing us, and brining us back to God.
Our role, as we hope and watch and pray for the king of righteousness to come again, is to join in justice and righteousness. Be a part of our coming king’s mission. Lift up those who are forgotten and ignored. Be present with those who are hurting. Speak for compassion and justice for all humanity. And show God’s love to all, especially those who don’t believe God can love them.
In the middle of his song “As,” Stevie Wonder gives us a challenge of living into God’s love. They are our challenge for today, and they go like this:
Change your words into truth
And then change that truth into love
And then our children
And their great grandchildren will tell
God will be loving you always.