Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
In the midst of the Babylonian captivity, God speaks through the prophet with the intention of assisting the Israelites in the resetting of their religious compass. They had lost their way. In 586 B.C. the Babylonians leveled Jerusalem, including the Temple, and took the Israelites into captivity. What we know of the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah prior to its destruction was the almost universal commentary, “They did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” With few exceptions, there were literally hundreds of years of kings who were more in love with power, wealth, and political machinations than with the Lord.
There’s nothing like a little suffering to focus one’s attention. The unimaginable had happened. Jerusalem had been sacked, the treasures of the Temple had been taken as plunder, the military vanquished, anyone of prominence either killed or taken as a slave. Even more incomprehensible was the destruction of the Temple itself. Stones the size of a house toppled, the building razed, and the symbol of Israel’s unique place in the economy of God’s unique relationship with the Israelites, now no more. Other than the poorest of the poor left behind to care for the land, Judah was a dust heap. Yep, nothing like a little suffering to focus one’s attention.
Without the Temple cult to direct the religious life of the faithful Israelites, the remaining elders took direction from the prophet. Jeremiah essentially told the remnant to get on with their lives. Plant gardens, marry, have children, increase in numbers in the land where they live in exile. Jeremiah spoke the words above to a people who needed hope. After their captivity, the Lord would come for them, for He had plans to prosper those whom He had chosen. This was the sign that the time of the Lord was near.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:12-14.
The pandemic can feel like we have been carried off into exile. Our lives, however imperfect, were rooted in the illusion that we were in control. We were living our lives, being basically good people, sometimes generous, often genuinely concerned about others, and making our regular offerings at the Temple of Trinity Lutheran, Freeland. Control is the crown prince of illusions. We all know it to be true. We are not in control. There is this stinking little virus who appears to be mutating and acting like something out of an H.G. Wells writing, which appears to be more in control than we are. We cannot even enter our local Temple to make worship. A little suffering to focus our attention.
In the midst of our exile, the prophet tells us to plant our gardens, marry, catch crab, increase in numbers (uh, this part I will leave to those more qualified), and generally get on with life as best we can. And because we seek God with all our heart, the Lord says, “I will be found by you.” But maybe you are having trouble finding God because it feels a bit like being in exile? In 12-Step Recovery, the program constantly reminds us to let go of resentments and focus on gratitude. So, plant gardens, marry, catch crab, and all the other stuff, but mostly let go of resentments about the fact that life has changed, and embrace gratitude as if it is life itself. And God will be found by us. Amen? Amen!
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