‘And to this people you shall say: Thus said the Lord: I set before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but whoever leaves and goes over to the Chaldeans who are besieging you shall live, he shall at least gain his life.’
Reading Jeremiah is not for the faint of heart. The people have obviously walked away from the teachings of the Lord and now the Lord is ready to punish the people. The choices are few, exile or extinction.
What caught my attention today is the idea that exile is the life-giving choice. Most of us would turn away from exile. The idea of being away from home, from being forced to leave our home place would be a sort of death. We are so comfortable in our home, in our practices, in our ways of life. Exile would be death.
In this prophetic word, the Lord, calls the people to exile in order to live. Leaving home is a difficult thing but staying would mean the destruction of a people.
All of this made me think about the church today (and I hope this is not too far of a stretch). It seems like at times we continue to do everything in our power to stay home, in our comfortable church environment. All around us things are changing and we seem to dig deeper in our unwillingness to change in order to be the church in the world.
I think we are being called to find life, to find ourselves, in exile. Leaving the comforts of what we have called home, and finding a home in a new place. This place, this culture, society, world is a different place. A place where people no longer see church attendance as a primary activity for their life. A place where giving to a church is no longer part of “what you do.” A place where people choose to make commitments to a variety of things, none of which include the church.
Are we going to become an exiled people that learn to worship God in a foreign land? Are we going to choose life or do we rather die?