The news has become predictable. Whatever your news source, chances are you will find expected interpretations of the day’s events. We usually hear what we want to hear from our leaders. Surprises are truly newsworthy.
In this text, Jeremiah makes news. Judah had been overthrown by the Babylonians. The people were exiled from their homes, their sacred places, and their country. Back in Jerusalem there were predictions of a short-term captivity. That’s the kind of news the exiles wanted to hear. Jeremiah’s letter, however, was not what anyone expected.
Jeremiah tells them freedom is a long way away. There is no light at the end of the tunnel right now. They are to settle in for the long haul. They are to get married, have children, plant fields, and start businesses. Most of all, they are to pray, which will be challenging, since they are away from their Temple. Even more surprising were for whom and for what they were to pray. They were to pray for themselves AND their new land. The people discover that God is with them not just in the Temple, but wherever they are. They can pray to God just as easily in Babylon as they did in Jerusalem, and God will hear them. Most startling of all, God is not just their God but a universal God who rules over all people, even their enemies.
This is startling news, the kind of news one would never expect. It is an entirely new way of viewing God and the world around us. God is playing the long game here. In the meantime, we need to get to work being the people of God wherever we are, in all kinds of circumstances. That may not be what we expect. It may not be what we want to hear. But with this God, expect the unexpected!
O God, you hear my cries in the dark and in the light. Help me to remember that I am your child, as are all my neighbors, wherever they may be in your world. Thank you for your guidance and love, no matter where I am. Amen.
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 Paul 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.