November 28, 2021
Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-14
Last week, we heard the prophet Isaiah trying to offer hope to people at a time when violence and uncertainty filled their everyday lives.
Isaiah … you’ll recall … offered a hymn that would mark the inauguration … the coming … of a king who would shepherd the people into a time of peace.
This king would be a light in the people’s darkness of the world.
This week, we move 100 years down the road from Isaiah and hear from the prophet Jeremiah.
Things did not get better since the time of Isaiah … the Babylonians had conquered the Assyrians in the Northern Kingdom and then conquered the Egyptians in Judea.
The Babylonians installed a puppet leader to rule over the people in Jerusalem.
It was not taken well … the Israelites staged a revolt and opposed the Babylonian king.
The Babylonians put down the revolt and … to reduce the chance of another revote happening … the Babylonians took the political and social elites into exile … to live in Babylon among their conquerors.
The poorer Israelites became refugees in places like Egypt.
Jeremiah is prophesying in Jerusalem after the first wave of exiles have been taken away … there will be more waves in the coming years, by the way.
There are other prophets in Jerusalem who offer the people remaining in the city … and their family and friends living elsewhere … a measure of hope.
These prophets tell the people and that the exile won’t be a long one … they’ll be back before they know it.
So, resist the foreign power and soon the Babylonians will either be overcome or frustrated and the people will be allowed to return home.
These prophets were just offering false hope … getting people to place their trust in a lie … that the exile is just a hiccup rather than a long-term life-altering event.
Today’s reading from Jeremiah is his letter to the exiles … instructing them how to live in the strange land where they have found themselves.
His instructions are not what the people in exile … or any people being oppressed … would expect to hear.
I imagine that those in exile yearned to be back home … familiar places … familiar faces … homes filled with warmth and security.
Instead, they find themselves among unfamiliar faces in unfamiliar territory for an uncertain length of time with little or no control over their lives.
They feared the younger Israelites would lose their identities and never know their real “home” … and no doubt … they longed for a saviour to rescue them.
Jeremiah tells the people not to resist the Babylonian or Egyptian authorities … he calls on the people to settle into their new homes.
He writes that the people are to:
Build houses and live in them;
plant gardens and eat what they produce.
6 Take wives and have sons and daughters;
take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters.
7 They are to seek the welfare of the community where they are exiled, and pray to the Lord on its behalf.
Jeremiah tells the people to live their lives … to not allow the exile to hit the pause button on their living … because they are going to be there awhile.
Jeremiah tells the exiles that their salvation will come … just in God’s good time, by God’s schedule, not by their’s … it’s going to be 70 years before God will visit their land.
God has not abandoned them … he still hears them.
Jeremiah also calls on the people to continue to live lives of faith … to pray … to care for the community … to be remain people of God demonstrated through their concern and care of others.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent … a season filled with anticipation … with waiting and with preparation.
It’s when we prepare our hearts for the light that will push back the twilight of the season. We … like the Israelites in today’s reading … anticipate the end of our exile and our return home.
As we sit here this morning, a building that felt like home almost two years ago … probably feels a bit unfamiliar … some of the faces we remember from pre-pandemic times … are still missing … things we used to do as part of congregational life are gone and may never fully return.
How would we feel to receive a message similar like Jeremiah’s … to live where we are … and to remember others?
How did we feel when we were told that we’re going to be in exile for awhile?
We’ve been in exile … waiting to return home … to be with the familiar and the comfortable … for longer than we imagined.
We have lived in uncertain anticipation that we’ll regain the comfortable … that we’ll return to the “normal” … and for some we’ve stopped fully living into a faith-filled life.
Maybe we should take a cue from Jeremiah … that rather than wait for something to happen that we instead work with what is … that we live in the situation … that in the twilight we focus on the welfare of the community … that we live our faithful lives … that we pray in the knowledge that God still hears us … that … we keep being and doing church, even if we do it differently.
By doing this … we live and we offer hope to others that they haven’t been lost or forgotten in the pandemic … that we become lights in the twilight … in the in-between time.
We become affirmations that God’s promise of love and grace are still present and available … in the darkness … in the twilight … and most certainly through the light that is to come.
SHALOM AND AMEN