Jeremiah writes to the leaders of a community in exile in Babylon. Though he is left behind, many others—religious and political leaders, artisans, and metal workers—are made to dwell in the land of their enemy. Family members are separated, some remain in Judah while others are deported to Babylon. Government, community life, and religious ritual, all of which brought meaning to life in Judah, are no more.
As contrasted with his rival, Hananiah, whose death is reported at the end of chapter 28, Jeremiah does not advise the Judeans to resist their captors nor does he prophesy of God’s imminent rescue. Dig in, he tells the exiles, because you will be there for a while. Put down deep roots. Mark engagements and marriages and new babies. Do not allow Babylon to diminish your growth. Living as God’s people in exile means thriving in captivity, Jeremiah says, bearing the new reality as a yoke that weighs heavily around your neck but does not break you. Even more surprisingly, Jeremiah asks the exiles to pray for Babylon and to work for its welfare, noting the inextricable relationship between the good of the city and the health of those living there.
Though most of us have not been driven from our homes by force, we have lived in some type of exile, estranged from our families or deported from good health into a foreign land of illness and pain. Such times bring many burdens: money worries, the loss of relationships, and the difficulty of finding meaning in the new reality. God is with us, however, right in the midst of our anxiety and loneliness. God’s Spirit transmitted through holy mystery and the ministry of our neighbors makes our Babylons places of a new kind of vitality, one in which we can flourish while still feeling our pain.
Consider when you have lived in a time or place of exile, and thank God for blessing your time there.
Through Jeremiah, God sends a message to the people in exile: They are to seek good for the city of Babylon, their new home. God will bless the city and in doing so will bless God’s people. The psalmist encourages the people to praise God with songs recounting past challenges through which God’s powerful deeds have brought them. This can be encouragement for those currently experiencing difficulties. In Second Timothy, Paul encourages his protégé to endure suffering if necessary. In fact, Timothy should expect to experience resistance. Although the apostle is in chains, the word of God is powerful and can never be chained. The story in Luke reminds us of a basic truth: We should remember to show gratitude to God for answered prayers.
Read Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. When have you experienced physical or metaphorical exile? How has God helped you to thrive in your Babylon?
Read Psalm 66:1-12. Recall a time of division in your family or community of faith. How did God bring you individually and collectively to a spacious place?
Read 2 Timothy 2:8-15. How do you remember Christ in your actions toward others?
Read Luke 17:11-19. What boundaries keep you from full wellness that can be found in Jesus Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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