The Jeremiah 19 Liturgy
John C. Rankin
Leader: We gather here today to seek God’s mercy, to stop the killing of the unborn. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
People: This is what Yahweh says: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you.”
Leader: The Valley of Ben Hinnom in 600 B.C. was used for places of Topheth, where infant children were burned alive to the Canaanite god Ba’al. Topheth means a fireplace for child sacrifice. Today we stand in front of an abortion center [or political institution] where human life is destroyed [or mocked]. It is a modern, updated Topheth shrine.
People: “Say, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh, O kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what Yahweh Almighty, the God of Israel says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.’ ”
Leader: Judah faced Yahweh’s judgment in 586 B.C. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple they made into an idol, and thus the destruction of the nation, followed by their exile to Babylon. To the extent that this nation sanctions and continues the practice of human abortion, we invite Yahweh’s judgment.
People: ” ‘For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods, they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. ‘ ”
Leader: In the idolatry of Ba’al, the Hebrew people were seduced into believing that by burning their infant children alive they could gain fertility, peace and prosperity. Today we see an “idolatry of choice” where “choice” becomes a false god used to destroy unborn human life, instead of true choice which nurtures all human life. And it is overwhelmingly rooted in the choice of men who get women pregnant, only to then flee responsibility and true manhood.
In a life disrupted by a crisis pregnancy, human abortion is sold as a means to regain a lost sense of peace, order, stability and hope. But human abortion does not restore these shattered remains of God’s image. Rather, it only fractures a woman’s life more deeply yet, and lets the man off the hook. This is idolatry, and we Christians are just as vulnerable to idolatry apart from God’s grace.
People: ” ‘They have built the high places of Ba’al to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Ba’al – something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares Yahweh, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.’ ”
Leader: Today, at modern Topheth shrines, we have a signpost to our own nation’s judgment, of our own pending Valley of Slaughter. The victimizers become the victims, and one day human abortion will be remembered not as a woman’s freedom or empowerment, but of her and her nation’s slaughter. A slaughter not only of the unborn, but also of the dignity of men and women as life-nurturing humans.
People: ” ‘In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who seek their lives, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. I will devastate this city and make it an object of scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh during the stress of the siege imposed upon them by the enemies who seek their lives.’ ”
Leader: Jerusalem’s idolatrous sacrifice of her infant children led to a literal cannibalism. This nation’s destruction of her unborn progeny cries out for a modern equivalent. All the hallmarks of Sodom’s lawlessness only grow – sexual anarchy that leads to social anarchy and the trampling of the poor and needy.
The harvesting and cloning of human embryos for research and transplants is its own form of human cannibalism. And why do we presume that we are above the descent into literal cannibalism one day? From the ground beneath our feet there cries out the blood of millions of unborn U.S. citizens. We will reap what we have sown, apart from God’s mercy which triumphs over judgment for those who seek him.
People: “Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, and say to them, ‘This is what Yahweh Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.’ ”
Leader: The jar Jeremiah used was similar to those used to bury the charred remains of the sacrificed children. And the parents truly wept as they buried them. This is the terror of idolatry. But today, the idolatry of human abortion hides the terrible act of its destruction within the machinery of the suction apparatus, at the edge of the scalpel or through the assault of toxic chemicals. There are no coffins, no tombstones, and too often the grief remains hidden and festering.
As surely as Jeremiah’s breaking of the symbolic clay jar signaled Yahweh’s impending judgment, we believe Yahweh Elohim, the Lord Jesus, pronounces judgment upon the sites and apparatus of human abortion, upon its political and economic enablers, and upon those who cling to its idolatry while mocking the Lord and Giver of life. As Jerusalem became like Topheth, so too will the ethos of human abortion kill the culture that enshrines it.
Therefore I break this jar as a prayer for Yahweh Elohim to bring an end to the evil of human abortion, and the male chauvinisms that undergird it. We thus proclaim God’s love to the women and their unborn children so victimized. I also break this jar as a symbol to break the powers of darkness which govern the abortion mind-set. In the name of Jesus the Messiah, Yahweh Elohim incarnate, let it be.[break jar]
People: ” ‘They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares Yahweh. I will make this city like Topheth. The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled in this place, Topheth – all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’ ”
Leader: When Jeremiah broke the clay jar, he declared that he was not the Judge. He trusted Yahweh Elohim as the only righteous Judge, and faithfully called on King Zedekiah and the other leaders to put an end to the shedding of innocent blood. To do so, they had to first put away the sins of sorcery and worshiping the stars, also of sacred prostitution, which together leads to human sacrifice.
Likewise we trust in the one true Creator and the power of honest persuasion in the public arena. No people are our enemies, even those who perform or support human abortion. Only the devil and his demonic host are our enemies. Thus we appeal to men to become true men and honor all women as equals and complements, and we appeal to the hearts and minds of all people of good will – stop the killing.
People: Thus we affirm:
- Yes to the marriage of one man and one woman for one lifetime.
- Yes to loving and faithful fatherhood.
- Yes to women and their unborn.
- Yes to the image of God in all people – born and unborn.
- Yes to the power to give in face of the pretension to take.
- Yes to the power of informed choice which serves human life.
- Yes to the power to bless in face of the pretension to curse.
- Yes to the power of love in face of the pretension to hate.
- Yes to the Good News of Jesus the Messiah.
People: Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where Yahweh had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of Yahweh’s temple and said to all the people, “This is what Yahweh Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’ ”
Leader: We are all stiff-necked apart from God’s grace, and we who are believers welcome the deepest and most challenging questions from abortion supporters, in the prayer that they are seeking the same grace in the midst of their broken lives.
People: Jeremiah also said, “See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.” And Moses says, “Now choose life.” So listen to the words of Jeremiah spoken to King Zedekiah, “This is what Yahweh says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood.”
Leader: Jeremiah promised peace for Judah if King Zedekiah were to obey. The same promise is before us today, if we as a nation, beginning with our leaders, would turn away from the slaughter of unborn human children. Forgiveness is offered to all who seek it, and it is complete in its healing of past sorrow and guilt for those who dare to believe.
People: We say to all who would listen:
- You have the power to choose life, if you dare to believe it and ask God for it.
- If you do not have this power, what power and choice do you have?
- If you have power and choice, why not use it?
- Courageous and compelling choice always nurtures human life, and in Jesus Christ, such courage, power and choice is uniquely available.
[Note: for the sake of performing the liturgy, and thus to replicate a topheth jar used to bury the remains of such sacrifice, click on: http://almashriq.hiof.no/ddc/projects/archaeology/berytus-back/berytus39/seeden-tophet/. In this article of a 1991 dig in Tyre, the first figure, left item, is suitable. In the whole extensive article, the reality of the child/human sacrifice is, on the one hand, unavoidable, and on the other, avoided as much as possible until toward the end, but still muted. It is not pleasant for any archeologist to talk about.]