2020-11-01 - 21. Sunday after Trinity - Pfarrerin Nicole Otte-Kempf

( Sermon Jeremia 29, 1.4-7.10-14 ) [ German Sermon ] [ Announcements (German)240.25 KB ]


When is this finally over? When will I have a normal life again? When will things be the same as before? When will everything be fine again? Right now, I hear these questions. Quietly inside me or spoken out loudly. This happens in times of crises.

The Israelites asked themselves this during their deepest crisis in the 6th century BC. Babylonian troops had defeated the Israelites and conquered Jerusalem. And Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar knew what would harm the enemy city most. So, he deported the upper class and settled these educated and skilled people in Babylon.

The king is generous to them. And it is not that bad in Babylon. But the Israelites sit 'by the rivers of Babylon' and bemoan their fate. They long for the good old days. Soon everything will be fine, soon we will be back in Jerusalem. Soon everything will be the same as before, according to the prophets among them. Just what one wants to hear in times of crises: everything will be fine.

In this situation the Israelites receive a letter from the prophet Jeremiah, who remained in Jerusalem. And the sermon text for today tells us what he tells his compatriots on behalf of God:

 


4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:

5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.

6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.

7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.

11 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.

12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”


Jeremiah speaks in plain terms. He expects a lot from his people in exile. He prophesies they won't be back anytime soon. The exile will last at least 70 years. Only their grandchildren will see the end of it, not they.

These are hard words, just like:

You will have to live with this disease.

I do not love you anymore.

Your loss will stay with you throughout your life.

You are fired. We don't want to see you here anymore.

It's time to accept reality.

But Jeremiah does not stop here. First, he answers the most important question the people far from home are asking, namely where is God now that they are struggling and feeling abandoned. Now that everything they relied on previously is gone and no longer applies.

Jeremiah says: God is everywhere, also in a foreign country. We have heard this sentence many times and maybe we believe it. To the exiled Israelites this idea was new and incredible.

For them, God lived inside the temple, in Jerusalem, in their country. Without this, the existence of God was inconceivable. And therefore, not only their temple but their faith too had been destroyed. Look, the Babylonians have triumphed: your God is defeated, you can forget him.

Jeremiah, on the other hand, says: God is there. Look for him wherever you are! He can be found! He is not bound to anything, neither a place nor a certain form, not even to a church. He is within you. This is what God tells his people through his prophet. He says it to those who think God has forsaken them. Therefore, get settled in the place where you are now, Jeremiah advises them. Live in the present.

Of course, you can tell yourself that everything was better in the past or that it will get better at some point in the future. But that doesn't really help in your present situation.

Live properly and mindfully wherever you are, says Jeremiah, but don't lose sight of the goal. You all have another purpose, a hope greater than building, planting, and shaping your everyday life. You have a God given destination. Keep on longing for it!

This happened more than 2500 years ago, and yet we can easily compare the situation of the Israelites in exile to our situation as Christians in the 21st century. We too are living in this world, and we should live in this world. We are settled in our homes, start families, live our lives. But we also know that this is not forever and by no means everything there is to life. We trust that God will ultimately lead us and the world to a happy end. And if we believe this, we should assume our responsibility for this world.

“Seek the prosperity of the city”, says Jeremiah. Because if the place where you live is doing well, you will be fine too.

"Seek the peace of the city". Peace meaning social justice and peace for everyone, God being the center of everything.

Through Jeremiah, God tells us this morning, I am giving you hope and a future, but according to my time and standards. So, there is no consoling, “Cheer up! It will be allright!” Only the promise, “In the end everything will turn out well.” Even if this takes a long time and requires patience.

„For I know well what thoughts I have about you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

This is one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, explaining God's thoughts and promises, not of sorrow but of peace and prosperity.


Amen


 

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