We all have things that are precious to us despite their actual use or value, and we all do things that have become so much a part of our life that we have little or no idea why we do them. These quite normal dynamics of human existence inevitably feature in faith and religion, and when they do we lazily assume that we have or do these things because God requires them.
If you were to visit ancient Jerusalem, around 600BCE, you would consider them to be a devout and religious people. The skyline was dominated by the inspiring architecture of Solomon’s temple; the rhythms of life revolved around numerous religious feasts and fasts. Into this apparently faithful setting, the prophet Jeremiah cast a disturbing message: This city is about to be totally destroyed - the Temple included - you will all be carried off into exile as slaves, and (this is the crunch part) this is God’s deliberate plan.
The destruction of Jerusalem was not an act of wanton vandalism by God. Far from it. It was a lovingly planned revitalisation project. "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” But for this to be achieved, Jerusalem, its Temple and it’s ancient customs had first to be completely dismantled.
Who would buy a new television or washing machine, then set it up next to the old one and continue to use the old one, even though the new one is better? Nobody! But in our religions we often do just that.
Jeremiah’s message was that in order to gain God’s promised future, the past would have to be lost. Surely, the same is true today, on some levels at least. In order to fully engage with the future, we sometimes need to let go of the past. Our attachment to old ways is often rooted in insecurity. God is not insecure. God knows that his love is good and fresh for each new generation. He will not be honoured if the habits of the past distract us from the promise and opportunity of today.