Our modern Bible was shaped by the Jewish people who were exiled from their homeland in 586 BC by the Babylonian Empire. The cultural trauma of that event influenced the writings that Christians hold dear today. The 586 exile colors all of the Bible, start to finish. The Hebrew authors who wrote the Bible used the exile experience to prophecy of a new king, a king who would deliver them from their occupiers.
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00:01 Recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon.
00:04 Thanks for joining us.
00:06 Good morning, everybody. I'm Ben Fleming, one of the senior pastors here at Westside and I too am a dad. And I know this not just because of the two offspring that I have. but because last night I said the words I'm not sleeping, I'm just resting my eyes.
01:18 I mean, those would be the signs of great fatherhood. I remember, when I was growing up, my dad would take me after church, and shout out to my dad. Who's definitely not listening cuz he's preaching right now. but my dad would take me after church to the Teo, across the freeway from our church and I would get a pizza pocket and a sunny D sounds like heartburn now sounded like a delicacy then. And we would come home and my mom, would say, you've been to the TECO with your father. She would smell the grease, and not to make it too spiritual. But I pray that this father say that there would be that, that evidence, almost that scent, that we've been with our father God amen. Exile part two is where we're at. We're talking about this, this idea, this reality that is super present in scripture called exile because well, we believe that still today, people of the Christian faith find themselves as exiles.
02:22 And so we have to understand the importance of this phrase. And I've been thinking about it this way. If you asked me if I showed up to a gathering together and I showed up with a glass or a bottle of wine, if I showed up with a glass of wine, you send me home, showed up with a bottle of wine and you said, where'd this wine come from? I would tell you a story about how I went to food for less and how it was difficult to park because I got stuck in trader Joe's traffic. Come on, somebody's been stuck in trader Joe's traffic with me. And I would tell you about how I needed to go find a cart. And then I wasn't exactly sure, where I was gonna find the wine this particular time, but then I would've found it. And I would've found a red one on shelf three in aisle nine, and then I went home and then I brought it here.
03:12 And that would be my story of where did this wine come from. If you've ever talked to somebody that understands wine, or maybe you've even taken a wine tour or done a wine tasting, you've been with a wine maker or you've traveled and you've been to vineyards. You understand that the story that they tell about where the wine came from is very, very different than Ben's stories from food for less. They'll say it began in this year. And this particular vintage that you're holding in your hand right now has all these notes of this fruit and this nut, because it was grown in this year with this amount of humili of humidity on this hillside in this country. And then they'll tell you about the barrels and the fragrances of it. And they'll tell you how it all came together. I will tell you that I bought it for $25 and they will tell you the story of the soil that it was birthed in.
04:07 If we're not careful, if we disregard these opportunities to see ourselves in the scripture, to see the story of our faith of Christianity. If we miss out on this opportunity to see the exile and the fact that as pastor Evans said just this last week, if we failed to see if we failed to see them remote, if we failed to see that the majority of the Bible was composed by exiles, wanders and slaves, we will develop a faith that looks a lot like a trip to food for less and a lot less like a people that understand the soil from which this was birthed in.
04:50 Here's the quote, just case you missed that the majority of the Bible is composed by exiles, Wanderers and slaves. Now we really believe here at west side, one of our primary goals as a leadership team, as a pastoral team is that we don't want to just take everything for granted because, well, this is a part of our tradition and this is how things have always been. We wanna till the soil with depth to understand our position in scripture. And so as exiles, we're called to discover how we should behave and live as exiles, right? And we get a really good picture of this when it comes to the Babylonian exile in 5 86 BC, if you wanna look at the story really kind of front to back, how it's chronicled in scripture, you can go to second King's chapters, 24 and 25, the history of the Babylonian destruction of the temple and Israel into exile.
05:41 But this was a prophetic message that the prophet Jeremiah shared with the nation beforehand gives us a lot of insight, says, this is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, stand at the gate of the Lord's house. And there proclaim this message. Hear the word of the Lord. All people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord almighty. The God of Israel says, reform your ways and your actions. And I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord. If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and you do not shed innocent blood in this place.
06:24 And if you do not follow other gods to your own arm, then I will let you live in this place in the land that I gave your ancestors forever and ever. But look, you're trusting in the deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder commit adultery and perjury burn incense to Bal and follow other gods. You have not known. And then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my name and say, we are safe, safe to do all these detestable things has this house, which bears my name become Aden of Roberts to you. But I have been watching declares the Lord. So before the exile happens, God sends a prophet. Jeremiah ascend, this honest word with the people of Israel and what it comes down to is he says this temple that you guys love so much and believe so much in you worship God and it like nothing is wrong. And yet you go out here and you've adopted all of the customs of the culture around you you've even come to the point where you are sacrificing children like the neighboring nations around you. You're abandoning the foreigner. That's in need of help. You're persecuting the fatherless. You're doing things outside of this temple that God detests. And yet you come and you worship God like nothing has changed or nothing is wrong.
07:48 And so of course the, the nation of Israel is captured by the kingdom, from the north, the Babylonian empire. And then Jeremiah gives them a blueprint, not just to live the way that God has called to them before the exile, but in the middle now how they should live in exile. And this is what he says. Jeremiah says, now this is what the Lord of heaven's armies. The God of Israel says to all of the captives, he has exiled the Babylon from Jerusalem. Now this first sentence would tell me something different than where Jeremiah actually goes. This sounds like the Lord of heaven's armies. All right, this is the huddle. We're making a plan. We're gonna do this thing. We're gonna overthrow this, this group. That's taken us over and we're gonna escape. And we're gonna go back to our own land. Now, what are we gonna do?
08:39 How is the hostile takeover gonna happen? Jeremiah? And Jeremiah says, so this is your strategy. Build homes, plan to stay plant gardens, eat the food they produce, marry and have children and find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren multiply, do not dwindle away and work for peace and prosperity of the city. Where I sent you into exile, pray to the Lord for its welfare will determine your welfare. This is what the Lord of the heavens armies. The God of Israel says do not let your prophets and fortune tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick. You don't listen to their dreams because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them, says the Lord. This is what the Lord says. You'll be in Babylon for 70 years, but then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised. And I will bring you home again for, I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, there are plans for good and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope. And in those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me and I will be found by you says the Lord.
09:59 This is a, a difficult message. Even for me to hear today. And by the way, any message from the prophet, Jeremiah at the time was a difficult message for the people of Israel. We know this because when Jeremiah was prophesying saying that they would be taken into exile, he was thrown into prison because the religious leaders and the leaders of the community at the time thought he was begging for attention. And he was just throwing up warning signs of something that wasn't actually going to come to pass. So the messenger of the Lord after communicating the message of the Lord was silenced as best as they could. And then what he said came true anyway, and now another difficult message comes from Jeremiah. And that is we're not to just fight back. We're not to scream and to yell and to shout. We're not to escape.
10:43 Instead we build homes. I wonder if today the message for the church at west side here in central Oregon and in bend is that we should continue as best we can to invest deeply into the community around us, not just the church community and not just this property, but instead we should look at the places where we live, the neighborhoods that we exist in the downtown, that we walk through, the alleyways, the highways and the byways that we should declare in the name of the Lord, that this is the place that he has called us to not just to preach against and to scream against, but the built homes and to plant gardens so that we might share with the community around us so that we might look at our neighbors and our neighborhood problems and the difficulties that we face today, not just as someone else's difficulty or for the city council, but instead for me as a neighbor who is invested in this place that I find myself exiled in, it can be easy as the church to say, look, we're not of this world. All we want to do is create a separation between them and us. So we build our own structures and our own organizations to try to with just the Christian culture, as much as we can. And Jeremiah would look at the nation of Israel and he would say, look, that's not how this exile's gonna work.
12:04 And you're not just gonna live and tolerate where you're at. Instead, you will pray and advocate for goodness to happen in that place.
12:15 I have to tell you, we're not just biting our time until we get out of exile church. We're not just wishing and praying and hoping for a better day where the culture is silenced. And the culture of Christianity has been raining Supreme. Instead, right now, in this moment, we are called to be a people of hope and of love and of advocacy for the place around us. When Jeremiah shared this message that they would need to build a place and they would remain there 70 years, they were only 10 years into the exile. They had to find hope in the 60 years that they were new, that they would be exiled for this hope. And this way of living is for Christianity for church right here and now.
12:59 And Peter catches this in the new Testament in first, Peter, chapter five. It's not just Jeremiah who speaks this way. Peter says, and when the great shepherd appears to use is in a letter to several churches in the area that he's trying to help out says, you'll receive a crown of never ending glory and honor in the same way. You who are younger must accept the authority of the elders and all of you dress yourselves in humility. As you relate to one another, I'll read that again. Dress yourselves in humility. As you relate to one another for God opposes the proud, but he gives grace
13:35 To the humble.
13:38 And he goes on in verse 13, he says, so humble yourselves under the mighty power of God. And at the right time, he will lift you up in honor, give all of your worries and cares to God for, he cares about you. Now listen to this. Peter says hundreds of years after what Jeremiah said, your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings. And so does my son mark greet each other with a kiss of love, peace be with all of you in Christ. Peter is not in Babylon at this time. The reference that he's making here is this new form of exile. As Rome has come and occupied their Homeland. I think what Peter is trying to communicate to us in this moment is that exile will continue to happen and all these victories while they're sweet and they're beautiful. Still we remain in this place waiting for this ultimate kingdom of God has come. And in the meantime, we try to create heaven here on this earth.
14:48 So be cautious to claim any victory as this ultimate and unending victory for God, especially in the realm of politics and in the realm of culture instead understand empires will continue to come and go, but the love and the power of Christ within us and in this place remains among the people in exile, evidence of a life being lived well. And exile will be our humility, not our empires or our power. Well, it's not just father's day. It's also a new federal holiday today called Juneteenth. And if you're unfamiliar with Juneteenth, it's a beautiful story that actually expresses this idea of exile. as well as is a powerful moment for us as a nation. So if you don't know the history, this is taking place primarily in Texas. Now, Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation on January 1st, 1863, but because of the fighting, the lack of internet instant communication available at the time, it wasn't until June 19th, 1865, two years later, after the emancipation proclamation, that general Gordon Grainger of the union army galloped into Galveston with 2000 other soldiers and came and gave a proclamation.
16:10 The people of Texas Granger said are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves. The connection here to far existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor, black enslaved people danced and sang and fled their plantations, they were free in the holiday of Juneteenth was established. This is a woman named Sarah Ashley, who was 19 years old at the time when Juneteenth took place. And this is a quote from her. I was 19 years old when the burst of freedom came in June and I get turned loose. Her former Enla said that they were welcome to stay, except her father felt like they wanted to leave. Sarah recalls a Papa left, but he came back with a wagon and mules. And when he borrows and he loads up mama and my sister and me and us goes to east Columbia on the Brazo slur river. And we settled down, they hired out my time, gave us a patch of land. And for the first time I ever seen money, Papa builds us a cabin and a corn crib. And I was so happy because the bright light don't come and there was no more weapons, a community of people that had been ripped and torn from their home, enslaved by people with the intentions.
17:53 Many of whom actively used scripture as justification for their enslavement. What comes from the mouths of people who've received. Those whippings is words that sound like a burst of freedom because the bright light came. Now, this wasn't the end of exile for black Americans shortly after just a year later, the black acts of 1866 took place dramatically restricting the ability of black people to move and participate in their communities around them. Jim Crow, segregation, Babylon again, and still the black church persisted hoped and dreamed and believed. And the words coming out of incredible intense pain and persecution sound like this from Wallace Willis and this song swing low sweet chariot. I'm sometimes up and sometimes down coming forward to carry me home, but still my soul feels heavenly bound coming forward to carry me home. We all have conversations about the rights of human beings and it's a good, and it's a healthy conversation. I think about these people in exile, those enslaved on plantations. I think about the Babylonian exile. And I think about what my words might be coming out of them. When I experience the least of persecution, someone cuts me off in traffic makes me feel uncomfortable in a place that I'm used to being comfortable. I can lash out and talk about what I deserve, but notice for the people of God, the enslaved people coming out of Juneteenth. The words sound like my soul feels heavenly bound.
20:18 God is on our side. It's a burst of freedom. I wonder if we, as the people of God, our language should sound as people in exile of dramatic and intense and unending hope and love and kindness that while there is still a conversation to have, there's still a place to move. There's still justice to be done in this world. And the church should be at the forefront to help create that justice. Maybe even in the midst of exile, our words could be the sweetest. The lovingness the most powerful things on this earth. So father God, we give you praise and glory today. We pray that we would be a people as Peter said of kindness, even in the middle of difficulty. In wondering 60 years, 70 years, I pray that we would be inspired by the black American church and the history of it. Lord Jesus, that we would care deeply for the community and the world around us, even in the middle of disagreement and exile Lord, that we would take an ownership, not of dominance in our neighborhoods, but of care that we would love. So well, as you've loved us in Jesus name, we pray
21:54 And everybody said, amen.