A sermon on Jeremiah 29, first published in the Baptist Times on Thursday October 15th

The sermon outline

The future is a scary place. As we look ahead we can see science and technology accelerating at a rate which almost beggars belief. This can leave us feeling out of place, anxious and uncertain whether God has a future for us.

  Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles carries a word of hope to all of us. It was written to people who had been snatched from their homeland, robbed of their status, and were left wondering whether God still loved them.

 In the first place they are told to hope for final victory.  In the most famous verse of the passage they are reassured that they have a future and a hope. More surprisingly, though, they are told to make the most of now. Instead of being told to escape their captors, they are told to settle down amongst them, planting vineyards and building houses. They are even told to pray for the peace of the cities in which they are imprisoned.

 This is strange advice indeed. However, it is not so very different to the advice given by Paul to Christians in the First Century. In stead of waiting for a golden age in the future, we should do our utmost to declare and demonstrate the kingdom now. This is the motivation that has always driven Christians to the forefront of social change – be that universal education or the abolition of slavery. 

In the end, like the old wartime poster, perhaps we should just ‘keep calm and carry on’.

Scriptural issues

  •  Since their homeland was a gift from God to them – did their exile mean that he had abandoned them? 
  • If the exile was a judgement upon them, how come they were told to make the most of it?

Current issues

 

  • If we accept a current situation which is less than ideal – is showing faith or selling out?
  •  If we ‘make do and mend’ with things the way they are – is that a truly Christian attitude? 
  • Do we take the present too seriously, or the future not seriously enough?

‘Despite every piece of evidence to the contrary, the people are told that God does have plans for them, that he has not abandoned them and he most certainly has not disowned them. Not only does he have plans for them but they are plans to give them ‘a future and a hope’. With no temple and no land to call their own, they felt as if they were on the spiritual scrapheap – an abandoned project of God’s given up like a bad job. This message told them otherwise.’

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