Author: Rev. Jim Harris
I have been calling some of the people I used to be able to visit with in person and this week one of the people I called said something that really resonated with me. She said, “I have been reading some of the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah and others, and I think we are in exile. At least, that’s how I feel.”
I think she is right. We are in a type of exile. While we have not been forced to leave our homes and go to a strange new land, we are being asked to “shelter in place,” and when we do go outside we are to practice “social distancing.” Instead of being exiled away we are exiled within, and cut off from living in the ways we once called “normal.”
What did Jeremiah say to those in exile, and does it speak to us as well? Jeremiah 29: 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take 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. 7 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.
This is a good word for us as well. What do you think the Lord meant when he said, “seek the welfare of the city”? I think he meant that we do not live just for ourselves, and when we wear face masks in public and stay six feet apart from others, we are not only doing it so we don’t get the coronavirus, but so others will not get it either.
Jeremiah added this promise, 11For 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. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.
In such an unusual time we have unusual opportunities. We have time for reading the Bible, doing Bible studies, writing notes or sending emails of love and encouragement, and many other things. We can plant gardens (many are, as some stores are running low on seeds), but we can also plant love into the lives of others. Above all, we have time to pray for ourselves, our families and for others. We especially need to pray for our local, state and national leaders, that God will guide them to make decisions that are best for the welfare of all people.
More than anything, this is a time to set aside political differences and work together as one people for the good of all. Then, perhaps, when we are no loner “exiled,” we will continue to live harmoniously.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
About Rev. Jim Harris:
Jim is a retired United Methodist pastor. He lives in Staunton and serves as the Associate Pastor at Bridgewater UMC in Bridgewater. Jim is an artist, photographer and is very active.