This is a letter from home - a letter about a stolen past and an uncertain future. God spoke to “The Exiles” through the hand of his prophet Jeremiah - God speaks to all exiles in all times. Being an exile is a strong and consistent thread, deeply woven throughout the fabric of the Biblical narrative:
Humanity survives in exile from the Garden.
The family of the patriarch Israel were exiles in Egypt.
Moses and the tribes were homeless exiles, trying to find a way home.
The lost tribes were exiled into Assyria, where they were swallowed up by the dominant culture.
The best and the greatest of the once proud remnant were nothing but weeping exiles in Babylon.
Jeremiah himself would soon go into exile in Egypt.
In this letter to the frightened Babylonian exiles, God writes to us today as well:
Our Holy Family fled from violence and corruption to safety in Egypt.
We Jews were exiled from the Promised Land out into the Roman Empire in a great diaspora.
We Christians lived as exiles; yet we also exiled others.
History is but a series of wars, famines, and resulting displacements.
America is a proud country of unwanted, but hopeful, exiles!
The Puritans, exiled for their religion.
The Irish and the Scots, exiled for their land.
Africans, kidnapped for their economic value.
This is a sad litany of sorrow and inhumanity - a lament of bad news. Where then, we might ask, is the good news in all this horror? God gave mankind hope twice over, and gives it still today!
First, he gave us actionable, secular, hope:
This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:
“Build houses and make yourselves at home.
Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.
Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.
Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.
Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”
(Jeremiah 29:4-7; The Message)
Do we hear the commands of God?
Build for tomorrow!
Plant for tomorrow!
Live for tomorrow!
Pray for tomorrow!
Do we obey?
No longer were we exiles - we were citizens! But, what about us today, here in this sanctuary? Are we Exiles-from-Eden being good citizens, contributing to the common good? How do we act for the welfare of our community and our nation? Are we tempted to surrender our freedoms in fear, or to surrender our right to vote because we are frustrated with the system or disillusioned by the clay feet of the candidates?
When we build our McMansions in our gated-“communities”, are we not exiling ourselves from our true communities?
When we interact only with those most like ourselves, are we not exiling ourselves from our brothers and sisters?
When, by our public and private discourse and deeds, we strive to prevent the newest groups of exiles from following God’s commands to make themselves at home and to contribute to the greatness of our country, are we not exiling ourselves from our cherished national heritage?
Are we not then, exiling ourselves from God?!
And then, God gave his hopeless people covenantal divine hope - then and now:
This is God’s Word on the subject:
“As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.
“I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you” - God’s Decree - “bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.
(Jeremiah 29:10-14; The Message)
God promises Immanuel!
God promises that we are included in his plans!
God promises us an intimate relationship with him!
God says that we are no longer unwelcome strangers, no longer unwanted aliens, no longer powerless exiles. He has proclaimed us (once and for all) to be his own family; and thus, family to each other!
Praise Abba from whom all rights and blessings flow!!!
(photography by tiwago)