This blog entry is taken directly from the “Unraveled” sermon series we did in January and February. This one, taken from Jeremiah 29:1-7, was preached on Sunday, February 2. It seems especially fitting right now, as we are finding ways to ‘settle in’ into this new norm as it seems like we will be here for a while. Take courage and hope my friends, we will endure, we will be ok. God is still God, and still at work! God is in our midst and pouring the grace, love, strength that we all need for each day. Be sure to get outside today for even a short walk. Continue to practice self care. Last night, after a long day, I chatted on video chat with my sisters and mom while I finished eating dinner. We laughed at the most ridiculous things, but it was a good way to end a long and challenging day. If you need help connected with your friends and family, let me know and I will try to walk you through the steps of how you can be on video chat with one another. In the meantime, pray today for the parents who are balancing work and caring for their children at home, attempting to help them with some new ways of learning. I am grateful for all of you and am praying for you as we navigate this and settle in together.
Read Jeremiah 29:1-7
We continue through our Unraveled Series this morning, moving into the book of Jeremiah.
Over the past two weeks, we have been reading some stories from scripture of how lives unraveled or God unraveled our expectations, and how we might find ourselves in the midst of the mess of life and where God might show up to bring laughter of joy and celebration over cynicism and doubt, in where God shows up to bring hope, joy, peace, and be present.
Today, we continue as we read another story from the Old Testament, reading Jeremiah 29:1-7. A little contextual background, the book of Jeremiah is one that reflects on the events that surround the fall of Jerusalem that takes place in 587BCE. Jeremiah, a prophet who were defined as the voice of God, was known as a major prophet, largely due to the length of the book.
It was during the fall that the people were broken into two groups of people, the poor people who became refugees in places like Egypt and the elite people who were exiled into Babylon. This text, part of Jeremiah’s letter was to the latter group, the elite people.
The Israelites called Jerusalem home because they believed God lived in Jerusalem. Yet when they were exiled to Babylon, this move not only robbed them of their home, their identity, their welfare, and now their perceived proximity to God. Up to now, they have been hearing messages from FALSE prophets, that life in exile was going to be short-lived, and to just sit tight in the sense that the message was ‘don’t get too comfortable, this is short term’ Jeremiah comes along and gives them this message that we are about to hear.
Again, as you listen, there are more names but again, please don’t get so hung up on the names that you miss the content. They are there to help make a connection of the history that had taken place, the time passed and the authenticity of the letter.
Martin Luther once said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” When life is messy and begins to unravel, we never really get used to it. We never get over it, we can’t leave it behind, no matter how hard we try. Because there’s always a piece that will find us and attach/stick to us. There will be times when we’ll find we’re holding it, and times when it’s holding us as we get tangled up and burdened. And yes there will be times in which we’ll be able to just set it down, it’ll still be there! But we begin to learn how to live in the midst of it all.
The people of Israel are in exile. Exile, according to Webster, is a state or period of force (or voluntary) absence from ones country. If we were to go back to the original Hebrew text, we would discover that it means an act of captivity, carried away, removing. Regardless of whether it was forced (which it was for this situation) or voluntarily, they are not in their homeland, and have to figure out what to do and how to survive. Their lovely lives that they once knew have become unraveled. They’ve been told that it would be short term, and to, in a sense, sit tight and don’t get too comfortable because it will only be a matter of time before they are led out of exile. Unbeknownst to them, the prophets who were coming along to speak these words were false prophets… they were not speaking the Lords truth.
So they are waiting and hoping and anticipating the exile to be short term, when Jeremiah comes along and speaks these words… hold on folks, you might as well settle in because you’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Remember those snickers commercials, googly moogly, … might as well grab a snickers and settle in because it is going to be a while before you go back home. In fact, buy stock in snickers, because you and your children, and grand children probably won’t be free from exile as it is going to be a long time! But rest assured, your great grandchildren will be able to return to the land you call home. Because this will last 70+ years! It will last your lifetime, your children’s lifetime, and even your grandchildren!
But! Jeremiah continues on to say, don’t just sit down and wait for the end, settle in and live! Don’t just go through the motions like a corpse or zombie, but live, cultivate life, get your hands dirty, build a home to make yourself comfortable, plant a garden and savor the food it produces, live! don’t die Live as though you are home. And finally, the Lord says (through Jeremiah) pray for the city around you, pray for the land in which I have sent you. pray for the community in which you now exist, pray for your surroundings. Because when the community around you is going well, and prospering, you too shall be ok. Things might not be ok now, but they will be.
Now, there are several different directions in which these words can be read in today’s context, with history that has unfolded as we have learned of and even witnessed people being forced to leave the land that they call home, we have witnessed and watched people fleeing from the land they call home, fleeing for safety and their lives.
We have experienced android watched countries live in a political mess in which people have had to figure out how to live and not only survive, live and even thrive in the midst of the uncertainty.
And we could stay with and sit with the immigration and refugee perspective this morning and I do have reflections on this perspective, however … this morning it seems that there is yet another perspective and lens to read through as it seems this is where the Spirit has led, and might be the word someone here this morning night need to hear.
Also, a disclaimer here and would like to point out that this message does not pertain to anyone who finds themselves in a violent or dangerous, harmful situation, this is not speaking to you. God does not intend for God’s people to live in danger and harm, and if you are in this situation, please talk with me after the service or call during the week to set up a time to meet.
HOW DO YOU EXIST IN AN LAND THAT DOES NOT FEEL LIKE HOME ANYMORE?! This is the million dollar question, right?
What does it mean when your life as you know it becomes unraveled and you don’t want to live in the midst of the mess? What happens when life is moving along and all of a sudden, you find yourself in a heap of unknown, uncertainty, sickness, grief, death or accident, or trauma unfolds and unravels and you have no desire to keep going. You are tired and just ready to give up, because this stinks. This is not the plans you had for your life. This is not how life was supposed to go. So I’m just going to sit and let life pass by.
You know, there are times in life when we wait – we decide we don’t know what to do in a moments situation and experience, and because life is suddenly or continuously awful, we wait for it to pass, as if we push a pause button on life.
We’ve all had moments in which we have had to adjust to the new norm, right? Whether it be with health situations, life changes and/or adjustments in life. when there is a rhythm in life, we just get used to something and there’s a bump and so we say ‘well, I guess this is the new norm for a while.’
When one faces a health diagnosis, every doctor appointment, treatment, and test brings what we call ‘a new norm’ and we have to decide if we will adapt or fight. If we will fight, flight or adapt. Because one could just decide to stop living and not do anything, or they could figure out how to navigate and weed through the reeds that get us down. As mentioned before, we’d like to rewind to pre-trauma days, we’d like to act as though it never happened, we prefer that whatever it is that is holding us is short-lived, so we can pick up and move on and get back to ‘normal’. However, the truth of the matter is that life doesn’t work this way … and so, what Jeremiah is saying … settle in and adjust to where life is – plant gardens, live, don’t get sucked into the death and darkness of life, but seek life, be active, live into the moment and into the future. This will be like this the rest of your life, and generations to come will carry and hold this as well, so you might as well get used to holding this so you can tell the story, share and teach the stories of days gone by, of how you survived, thrived and lived. Because the reality is when trauma takes place I your life, you don’t ever get over it, it becomes part of you, but you do learn to navigate through and forward. You might not get used to it … this new norm, but you learn to hold it in a way in which you can live in the balance of life and pain.
And yes, this might be painful and difficult to hear, because in sone regards it seems harsh and as though Jeremiah is saying ‘people suck it up and deal with it’ because this is the new norm now. However, there is truth in the idea of going outside for a walk and getting some fresh air, or planting something and getting your hands dirty, there is something that becomes life giving about laughing and sharing life together … and knowing that laughter is ok in the midst of the mess. Because there are times in which the laughter and smiles and life giving moments are what gets us through the challenges and dark times.
In October, shortly after my accident, in talking with my concussion doctor, he reminded me that in the midst of my recovery the worst thing that I can do is to sit in a chair and think about all the things you cannot do… you can do everything, he said, it will just look and be different and even the pace might be different than what you are used to, but don’t just sit there. And I will tell you, as I began to enter into a bit of depression and dark space, I could tell a difference in my recovery. Yes, I tired easily and quickly (and still do) but I felt better because it was a good tired, a hope-filled tired after having done some work, talked with some people, and shared life with you all. I might not have been my best or been able to bring 100%, but I showed up, lived life. This is what the Lord is saying …
Not only is the Lord saying, through Jeremiah … build your home, live like you would be living at home, plant a garden, eat what comes of that garden and live, do die off… keep your story going. AND! Pray! Pray for your community, your friends, your family, pray for the peace and well being of the neighborhood and community around you. I sometimes wonder if the Lord reminds us to pray because it takes the focus off of us and our stuff and refocuses our lives and hearts on God.
But there’s more! More that we didn’t even hear today and that is if we were to keep reading, we would have heard God’s promises to continue to surround and sustain, love, provide, and be with us, hearing our prayers and cries of our hearts.
People of God, this story speaks! This story speaks to us today as we might find ourselves in a space where we feel like life has unraveled and we have no idea how we will survive. This story speaks! Over the past two weeks, we’ve heard ways how God showed up to turn our cynicism into laughter and joy, we’ve heard how we can be used to bring some hope into the lives around us who are messy. So I wonder and ask … what is it in your life that has you feeling stuck, tangled up, immobilized, traumatized or down? What do you need to do to ground yourself … but also to be able to live in the midst of the mess?
I encourage you to hear the words of the Lord to the people in exile. Find a way to settle in, to live, don’t die … there’s enough death around us that we have experienced, but truly live. Get your hands dirty, plant a garden, go for a walk, maybe it’s finding a different job, talk with someone, say out loud, listen, I’m here … but that’s about all, I’m trying … I know that God is with me and loves me, but today, I’m just going to show up and live. Because this story is one that can remind us that as things seem to unravel or have unraveled, God will help us hold the tangled mess, that God will hold us, be with us, and give strength for the journey.
In this next week, I encourage you to keep living, but just remain safe and socially distant. Plant something and begin to watch it grow, connect with friends and people from church over the phone, text, social media or one of the many Zoom gatherings we are offering. Show up to something that you just haven’t had the energy to do over the past season and say … I’m here and I’m going to try a new way to connect with people. Talk with the community, the body around you, be transparent and real and honest, begin to pray, and hold on to the hope and promise that God is and will always be with you.
 Martin Luther Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved February 2, 2020, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/martin_luther_380369
 Webster Dictionary Online; exile.