Pray: To open your time together.
Read: Jeremiah 29:1,5-7
Consider: Some thoughts for your group
The prophet Jeremiah speaks to the people of Israel in a historically tragic moment in their story. After generations of living as “God’s People” and establishing a nation, identity, and culture that was unique to the world, they find themselves enslaved and exiled to a rival nation. It would seem that God’s story had a very unhappy ending. Jeremiah makes it clear that this unfortunate outcome rests solely on the shoulders of Israel. They dishonored and disobeyed God’s clear design for them, and consequently they will now be ruled by another people group.
But amid God’s judgement and discipline, Jeremiah gives some curious instructions: build gardens, get married and have children, lay down roots for your good and the good of your enemies. What a strange thing for God to say to Israel. We would expect God’s direction as something more like: Repent, change your ways, and I will raise you up to destroy your enemies and get back to building our empire, right? Instead, God ties Israel’s future peace and prosperity to that of their capturers.
As we have shared recently, we are entering a season as a church of garden building and creating space for our community. We believe God’s word for Israel is still true for us. We are not called to disappear from our community. We are not called to isolate, seperate, and draw up fences to keep our community out of our holy grounds. Instead, God has placed us right here, right now as community builders. We are called to be the salt of the earth, a light on a hill that draws people toward the love of Christ. And as we become vehicles of blessing and healing in our community, we too will experience God’s blessing and healing ourselves.
We are living in a very “us vs them” cultural moment where we are most defined by what political, social, or economic group we are in and how that group stands against all others. Where does this kind of divisive living exist in the gospels? What kind of people are we called to be as Christ-followers?
Put yourself in the place of the Israelites. As you make that long, heartbreaking journey to the land of exile. What do you feel? How do you imagine your life will be going forward? What hope do you have?
Now imagine receiving that word from Jeremiah. You are to embrace your exile and invest your time, talent, and treasure into your new community. What resistance do you feel to this instruction? Where does that resistance come from? What hope do you have in God’s plan for you and for your new neighbors?
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and envision a community garden saturated in God’s love where all are invited. What does the garden look like? What does it sound like? Who is there? What importance does that garden hold in its community?
Spend some time praying for one another. For those who are having a hard time envisioning or embracing this concept of the community garden metaphor, pray for God’s peace. God is patient and kind; He does not bully us into anything. Pray for God’s creative Spirit to fill each of us as we imagine together how we can live as God’s inviting presence in our community.