This is my sermon from November 26 on the Reign of Christ Sunday, and the lesson is Jeremiah 29:1,4-14.
Above is a recording of the sermon from Emmanuel.
It is hard to be the bearer of bad news.
It is painful to have to tell a person or people what they don’t want to hear. Just talking about it, I fell that sinking feeling in my stomach, that heaviness in my heart. I’ve had to tell people they have lost their jobs. I‘ve had to tell people a loved one has died. I’ve told people a loved one is in a dire situation and may not live.
I’ve been in the room when people have been told they are probably going to die soon. I’ve been in the room when people have been told they don’t have a job.
When delivering bad news, it is human nature to try to find a positive. You want to leave the person with some hope, with something to hold onto while their world in crumbling.
This is what the prophet Jeremiah tries to do.
The Southern Kingdom of Judah has been conquered by the Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians have taken the leaders of Jerusalem into exile in Babylon. They have taken the priests, and the prophet; the king, the queen mother, the palace officials, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths and have put them into the society of the city of Babylon. When they Babylonians captured Jerusalem, the destroyed the Temple, plundered the capital, and then took the leaders of the city and nation with them.
Jeremiah has been a prophet in Jerusalem for years. He has been warning the King, the Priests and the people that they are living outside of God’s laws and, if they continue to do so, they will find themselves outside of God’s love. Now, what Jeremiah had warned against has come to pass, and even more so than what anyone could anticipate.
Despite this trauma, the people in exile were expecting to be delivered. They thought that God would forgive them, overthrow the Babylonians, and they would soon be back in their homes and beds.
Jeremiah has to tell them that is not going to happen. Those taken to Babylon will not be coming back to Jerusalem. Their children probably won’t be coming back either.
There were those in both Babylon and in Jerusalem who were saying God will have them come right back. God, through Jeremiah, says no. You will be there for about 70 years, you will be there for generations. The leaders won’t return. Maybe their children will, but more likely it will be their grandchildren. You will be in Babylon, so get comfortable. That will be your home.
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 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; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
God reminds the people that although God has allowed them to be conquered, God has never abandoned them. While they abandoned and ignored God and God’s will, God will be with them. God isn’t finished with them.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
You will have a future with hope, even though the right now is pretty bad. When you pray, I hear you. When you look for me, you will find me. I will restore you and bring you back.
But until then, make a home where you are. Work for the welfare of where you are.
This is the lesson we need to take from this story of God and God’s people. Work for the welfare of where you are.
While we haven’t been exiled from our homeland like the leaders of Jerusalem, we do not always find ourselves where we want to be. Our circumstances are not always what we desire. The world is not how we would have it.
And into our world of worry and woe, God tells us to work for the welfare of where you are.
Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Don’t fixate on where you aren’t. Don’t stress over that things aren’t the way you want them. Work for the welfare of where you are.
We long for the good old days of full pews and multiple Sunday School classes. We miss the days of the church choirs (multiple) and active groups and ministries within the church.
We worry about the future. Will the church survive? Will the church stay open? Will my family stay faithful?
While these are legitimate memories and concerns, God, through Jeremiah, told those in exile in Babylon and those in exile in a country where the church is become less important, the same message. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
But until then, until we can convince people that they need to know how much God loves them, until we teach others, and ourselves, that God doesn’t want to make good people, but God wants to make the dead alive. Until then, work for the welfare of where you are.
Take care of our neighbor, whether we know them or not, whether we like them or not. Show the same sacrificial love to others that Christ has shown to us.
In the midst of the bad news and exile we feel, God has never left us. God wants great things for us and from us. God is with us. God will restore … and gather us together. But until the Reign of Christ is restored, work for the welfare of where you are. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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