Lectionary: Proper 23C / Ordinary 28C / Pentecost +21

by CM

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

When a child is born into this world it is a result of actions commenced by a myriad of individuals, none of whom happen to be the child. Of course, there are the parents but we often overlook the fact that there are four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and the number continues to increase as the generations go back. Each coupling is accompanied by a particular chain of events which brought these two people together. In some cases, continents were travelled and oceans were crossed. All of the countless events took place and have brought forth the present life which is recognized as the person you see looking back at you from the surface of a mirror. And just as you didn’t have control over the circumstances that brought forth that event, the circumstances we find ourselves in over the course of our lives are, for the vast majority of them, equally beyond our control. The one exception is the choices we make in the circumstances.

The decisions we make at any given time represent an opportunity to say that we did the one thing that actually have control over. I believe that, in light of how much I don’t have control over, the one thing that I can control takes on a heightened sense of importance.

The Children of Israel were in a situation, during the Babylonian Captivity, over which they had no control. It was the last place on earth that they would have chosen to be, sort of like those of us in prison. And in that moment, when their decisions were of the utmost importance, God steps in to direct their decision making process. God tells them,

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. (Jer 29:5-7, RSV)

I’m sure that the instructions given ran far afoul of what would have felt like the natural thing to do. It’s natural to complain, rebel, cop a bad attitude, have a pity party, get depressed, try to figure out what you could have done differently, assign blame, and pray that God deliver you from circumstances which aren’t to your liking. And yet, none of the above are what God says to do.

Be creative, prosperous, fruitful, multiply, fall in love. In other words, live as fully as you can and remember to pray. You can’t effectively pray for a situation, a place, a people, while maintaining a bad attitude towards it.

This is God’s way of saying for us to make the best out of a bad situation and God tells us what the best is.

I can truly say that no matter how bad things may seem, within those same circumstances there is a hidden treasure with your name on it. A godly attitude will help you develop the vision and the ability to find it.


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