And seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper.
. . .
For I am mindful of the plans I have made concerning you – declares the Lord – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a hopeful future.
Jeremiah 29:7 & 11
It is hard to pray when we are not where we want to be. It is even harder to think that somehow God is with us in this place, and will guide us to a hopeful future.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse, the stuff of plaques, mugs, and stationary. It has a great “ring” to it, it sounds so spiritual, so biblical, so Christian.
It comes as a small oasis in the middle of a desert of bad news. In order to lean on the hope the Israelites will have to go into exile, and pray for the well being of their new home. Only then will they be able to live into the promise of a day when they will return home.
For those who stay behind refusing exile, refusing punishment, refusing prayer for the enemy’s prosperity, there will be severe punishment.
This could be considered a “bloom where planted” type of utterance. Blooming where planted is difficult, especially when we find ourselves where we did not want to be, in exile from our desired place. It takes imagination, trust, and memory of identity. If we are able to stay rooted we will enjoy the return home.
So let us pray for our cities, for our places of exile. Let us pray that we might “bloom,” find life, find our calling. This is such a great message for a church who so desperately wants to stay home and whose real future is in the exile of the emerging world and culture around it.
Who knows, maybe the home we find is different, better maybe, because we have allowed ourselves to journey in foreign territory.
Now each time you see the bumper stickers you’ll be able to stop, pause, and remember how needed these words were to those who first heard it and how needed they are today!