Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Bloom Where You Planted

Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. This is not a book for the Bible for the faint hearted. In part because Jeremiah asks us to look at our lives and our world with care. Not necessarily for the good stuff but the injustices that pit one human being against another and for the times that challenge us to see things in a new way. 
Yet every now and then there is a passage from Jeremiah that did not involve heart wrenching tears. Don’t get too excited – Jeremiah’s version of good news does not call for a party. God’s chosen people are still being held captive in Babylon by the Babylonians – there is nothing new on that front. The Israelites are are living in a strange land far from their beloved home in Jerusalem. The temple in Jerusalem still lies in ruins. What is new, are the false prophets who stand on every street corner predicting a swift end to their captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah looks on and shakes his head and says to the people “don’t believe a word of it. God has something else in mind and it does not involve a joyful reunion in Jerusalem in two years time.”  Jeremiah says, “It’s going to take time. Bloom where you are planted.”  
Listen again to Jeremiah’s words. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 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.” (Jeremiah 29:4 – 7)
What Jeremiah is asking is hard. It means finding a way to bloom in rocky ground. It means looking ahead instead of remembering what has been. Jeremiah makes no promises for a quick return to Jerusalem. Rather he asks the people of Israel to build a new life in Babylon and to pray for the wellbeing of the city where they are captives. In working for the health of this new city, the people of Israel will find their own health. Jeremiah asks God’s people to find a way to give thanks for this new place and to make the most of life in a new land and make the best of a difficult situation because they are going to be in Babylon for a long time. So, says Jeremiah, “Get married. Have children and pray for the welfare of the city where you are living even it means praying for enemies. Bloom where you are planted.” 
This is something I think many people from this province are well able to do. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the history of this place but in the time I’ve lived here I heard stories about people learned how to make do and to survive in difficult circumstances. I was settled on Newtown Lumsden Pastoral Charge in Bonavista North. While Newtown is a beautiful place you would not call the soil fertile and there is only one direction of warm wind. The winters, well it is fair to say I’d never seen anything like it. It is wild when the wind and the snow come. 
I once asked my neighbour, who grew up on a Pinchard’s Island which is a short boat ride from Newtown, how she and her family managed to survive winters on the island. I imagined she’d tell me the winters were terrible. I imagined she’d tell me it was cold because there was no electricity. I imagined she’d tell me there it was a daily struggle. Without hesitation she said, “It was the best time in my life. We all lived as one.” Talk about blooming where you are planted. 
In spite of a land that may seem inhospitable, people found places where vegetables would grow, they would eat what they could fish or hunt and harvested the berries in their season. Somehow, out of land that may seem to a new comer like me as harsh, generations people carved out a living out of the land. They not only made a living, but they gave thanks for what they had.  
It is a good message for us in the church today. We may not face the challenges of living that the people in Jeremiah’s day or the early settlers to this province did. All the same it is a challenging time to be in the church. Everywhere we turn people are saying that the church is dying. Changes in the society mean that church no longer has the place it once did. We know all too well in this congregation that pews are not as full as they once were, what one hard winter can do to an oil bill and how hard it is for us raise the money need to continue worshiping here. 
And yet, and yet Jeremiah’s message to us not one of despair. God calls us to bloom where we are planted. God’s word of hope to us is ever the same and so is the message of the prophet. Bloom where you are planted. Find ways to seek the welfare of the people and place where we find yourselves.  That is our calling today. To go into the community and find ways to help those who need help. To find ever new ways to share the good news of God’s deep and abiding love. To be a community of faith. 
Jeremiah says, “For surely you know that plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) We are promised a future filled with hope. So let us go into the world with praise on lips to be God’s people at work in the world. Amen. 

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