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Bo Stern Brady: Peace or Protest?, Jeremiah 29:4-11

July 5, 2022

Audio Recording

In exile, identity is challenged and alliegence is divided. There was conflict in the Jewish community in Babylonian exile. Some wanted to hear Jeremiah’s call for a peace ethic in Babylon, but others wanted to hear Hananiah’s call to a resistance ethic. Should Israel just accept their fate as an exiled and broken nation and absorb completely into Babylon? Or should they resist their overlords and actively work to undermine Babylon? Or should they do something in between?

Bo Stern Brady: Peace or Protest?, Jeremiah 29:4-11

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:07 We're in our fourth week of this series on exile, it doesn't sound very happy. Does it? It, it is kind of, I am fascinated as we've been studying and discussing this series at how pervasive the theme of exile is throughout the whole of the word of God. From Genesis to revelation, we see that we are a people of exile we are, and, and we, we even see Jesus, talking to his followers in the new Testament, in, in what is technically a post exilic period. And yet he says the most interesting thing. He says, the, this is Luke 19. The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said, and because he was nearing Jerusalem, keep that word in your head. He's nearing Jerusalem. He told them a story to correct the impression that the kingdom of God would begin right away. Jesus is gonna fix some misinformation.

01:09 You're waiting for something they're longing for something they're thinking it's about to happen. And where's it gonna come Jerusalem? So he's saying I need to correct this. And so the story tells him is this a noble man was called away to a distant empire to be crown king, and then returned before he left. He called together 10 of his servants and divided among them 10 pounds of silver saying, invest this for me while I am gone. Now in the king James that says he gives them the money. And he says occupy to like, come. And I'm kind of fascinated with that term occupy. it means occupant. And I was thinking there are like a couple of kinds of occupants. There are a couple of ways to occupy a home and this whole series, we're really talking a lot about the idea of home and home is emotive.

02:02 Home is important. Home is like for me, it's the, it's my favorite place to be. And so this idea of being an occupant is important. I think for us to understand. So one way to be an occupant is to be an owner. You own a home, and if you own a home and bend, congratulations, this is good. if you owned a home and bend in 2008, it wasn't as fun. At that point, I owned the very same home. I owned it in 2008. but it, it, we, the owner has all the rights and all the responsibilities, the owner gets to remodel the bathroom. The owner gets to, paint the walls, safety orange. The owner wants to the owner, gets to, you know, do what they want. And then they also have all the responsibilities. They have to fix the plumbing. When it breaks, they have to fix the air conditioner every July, as it turns out in my life, they have to fix things.

02:56 They have to invest, but then when they sell it, they have the right to all the equity. Now, a renter is a different story. We all end up being renters at some point, my, my husband and I have the unique position of, we have a home and Beaverton, a home and bend. And part of my home and bend is an Airbnb where, and that's where I stay when I'm here to work. And, I, this week we were coming over and I texted my daughter who manages the Airbnb for me. And I said, Hey, we'll be there at five o'clock. And she called me immediately, which is always bad news, cuz she never wants to call anyone. And I was like, oh no. And she said, you're coming tonight. And I said, yes. And she said, we have guests till tomorrow in your space. And I had to rent a hotel room even though I have two houses, I still had nowhere to go.

03:50 So I had to rent a hotel room. So my husband and I ended up at, at the campfire hotel. I don't know if you're paying attention to the campfire is it's cute. and, and we were there. We, we really did admire some of their cute decor choices and stuff, but you know what we didn't do. We didn't make a plan to add a front porch to our room. We didn't do that. We didn't think, you know, let's paint that wall. I think that wall would look better safety, orange. We didn't do that because we don't own it. It'd be a waste of our time and also against the law. And so when you're a renter, you have some rights and some responsibilities, you have the responsibility to follow the rules. You have the right to stay there with in peace, without somebody bothering you, you have some rights and some responsibilities, they are contractual.

04:44 And what I would like to submit to you this morning is that we are renters here. We are renters on planet earth. We are heirs to a much bigger, much greater kingdom, but we are renters here. Jesus, as he's nearing, Jerusalem tells them, oh, I better correct the idea. They have that. I'm here to set up a kingdom right now because Jerusalem is where the kingdom is supposed to be showing up. So they've got these expectations about what exile should look like for them and what salvation should look like for them. One of the reasons they might have that is because of our central scripture for this whole series. And I love that this is our central scripture because there, I really don't think there is any scripture in the Bible. More often yanked out of context and slapped on a greeting card. And it doesn't mean what we think it means it is Jeremiah 29 11.

05:43 And I'm so sorry if you fill your bubble bursting even right now, but let's just go there. It says before I know the plans I have for you says the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you a hope and a future. This is a beautiful verse and I love it. it's hopeful. It's inspiring to us, especially to us. those of us who live here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. And is there any place better in the world than bend the 4th of July? Nowhere I contended nowhere. I volunteered to speak this weekend because I wanted to be here for the 4th of July. And so it's really easy to pick just this verse and put it on a t-shirt and say, he knows the plans he has for me. And they're great and they're good and they're gonna lead to a future and a hope and a kingdom.

06:34 So let's put some context around this scripture. This is being said to the children of Israel who have been carried away, captive into Babylon. We've referred to that in this series, but I wanna talk to you a little bit about how that happened. We're gonna try to do some non boring history real quick. So king David, we can all agree on king David. He's our central piece in the, in the old Testament king, David is the king over United Kingdom, all 12 tribes. And he hands the kingdom down to Solomon and the kingdom erodes a little during the reign of Solomon and Solomon dies. And the kingdom passes into the hands of a very wobbly leader named Ray Boham Solomon's son. And because Ray Boham makes really stupid decisions inside of the kingdom, he is challenged by a man named J Boham and J Boham has no family ties to David.

07:31 And that's a problem because in second Chronicles, I think it's second Chronicles two, ju they, God spoke to Solomon and said, there will always be someone from the tribe of Judah sitting on the throne of Israel. And so J Boham peels off 10 of the 12 tribes. They go with J Boham. He sets up sort of a FAIM kingdom, the other tribes, Judah and Benjamin land in Judah and Jerusalem is the holy city. And they own Jerusalem. Now the law for all of the children of Israel is all of your services, all of your parties, isn't it cool to belong to a people group that's calendars built around seven parties, pretty fun. all of your sacrifices, all your atonement for sin, all that you do has to be done in Jerusalem. So these people living in the kingdom of Israel have to travel, pack their bags, travel over to Jerusalem and do their things.

08:33 So J Boham hopefully sets up other places where they can do it. And then eventually he's like, you know, even if you'd like to sacrifice to a different guard, God, we have a place for that. So he builds a counterfeit kingdom. If you study the Kings of Israel and Judy you'll find that J Boham is arguably one of the most powerful Kings that ever lived because he subverts the entire 10 tribes of Israel. So in the history of the kingdom of Israel, there are 19 Kings. None of them are good. None of them follow the ways of God in the kingdom of Judah, there are 20 Kings and one queen. And in that group, there are eight good Kings and one truly terrible queen read about queen Athelia. Sometime if you have, have a little time on your hands, but Judah tries harder to follow the ways of God.

09:27 And eventually, the kingdom of Israel falls to a Syria in 700 BC and they are, they just evaporate into history. Those tribes are gone, but Judah is, living out. They, they go another 200 years about and, then they become enemies with Babylon. And Babylon is a little place that has a brief moment on the world stage, but they become powerful fast Nebi Kezer starts gobbling up all the lands in his path and he starts amassing them. He actually does it way too fast and can't control them all. But he starts with the kingdom of Judah. And what he does is he builds a siege wall around the city of Jerusalem. He builds a siege wall that keeps them in and food out. And can you imagine every day listening to the sound of hammers that are sealing you in to your city?

10:26 And some historians believe that lasted 18 months. Some believe it lasted three years. Lamentations shows us the picture of what it was like to live inside Jerusalem while they were being SED. It, it says the, the people were eating their babies. They were starving. They were, losing it and they were stripped of everything. And then finally, when they're, without anything, any longer, NEB, Adon, NEB ER's leader, marches in and takes the people of Jerusalem captive. They pillage, they haul off all the things. They burn the temple. It's over pretty much for Judah. They leave a few people there to kind of tend the ground and they take the rest to Babylon. They March them 500 miles away, and now they are resettled in enemy territory, a place they do not know they're separated from their families. They're separated from their very names.

11:27 They change their names. They are in a world that has entirely different gods, an entirely different language, entirely different government, a whole different king. They are desperate. And it's into this place that the prophets of Judah begin to prophesy. Several of them start to prophesy. You need to fight this thing. You need to get outta Babylon. You need to fight against Babylon C. You, you can do it. You can bust your way out of there, but then Jeremiah writes them a letter. And he says to them, this is what the Lord almighty. The God of Israel says to those. I carried away into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, build houses and settle down plant gardens and eat what they produce, marry and have sons and daughters find wives for your sons and give your daughters and marriage so that they too may have sons and daughters increase in number, do not decrease.

12:34 Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile, pray to the Lord for it. Because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Yes. This is what the Lord almighty. The God of Israel says, do not let the prophets and Viners among you. Deceive you do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. Have you ever talked someone into telling me what you need to hear? This will happen here. They are prophesy lies to you. In my name, I have not sent them declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says. Here. We come to context. When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to you to bring you back to this place for, I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you a hope in a future.

13:27 Then you will come and pray to me. You will call on me and come and pray to me. And I will listen to you. And so this is the context. Yes, God has a future and a hope for them in their exile. But 70 years, some of them aren't gonna see it. Some of them are gonna die there in exile. And so this is a whole different idea. Here you are living in a place you didn't sign up to live. You still technically own your rightful inheritance in Judah. Your name is still on that title, but you don't get to go there. You don't get to live there. You're living here among the enemy. And so he says increase in number don't de decrease. He gives them a way to live inside of exile. He gives them an ethic for exile and the instructions here center around the word increase.

14:23 This is big because they are people from whom everything has been stripped. They are a bare bones version of themselves. They've literally been starving for years. God says, I'm gonna use this time in exile to put some meat on your bones. I'm gonna build you back. I'm gonna get you going. I'm gonna get you back to your fighting weight and remind you who and who's you are. And in this change, I'm gonna work inside of you. And it's gonna spread out into this new place. The things I'm doing in you are gonna spread out into the culture around you. You're gonna make peace here. You're gonna build a life here. This isn't your final home, but you can make peace inside of it. So how do we do it? Because Jesus said in Luke 19, Hey guys, this is you, your, the kingdom isn't here yet.

15:15 We live in a now and not yet place. So how do we make peace here? How do we build lives here? How do we actually function? When we are living in what feels like Babylon? How do we live? When we feel like we're stuck in attacky rental? And all we wanna do is be an owner. And so first thing build, he says, build, settle in, make a home here, put down some roots, increase your presence here. My grand, my grandparents were people who, who really felt strongly that Jesus was coming back any minute. And so they didn't save money. They didn't want real jobs. They, they just didn't prepare. They didn't, they didn't plant in. They didn't get to know people outside their faith community. And, and I, I always look back and think what a gift they could have been to the world outside their mindset.

16:10 we recently got new NA neighbors in our neighborhood in our neighborhood is a popular one in Beaverton for people to buy and flip. And so they moved. I like we saw a pickup show up and then we saw a car show up and then we saw a giant dumpster show up. And we're like, oh, and the cars left at night and came back in the morning. And so we have a, a, a, a tradition that whenever someone new moves into the neighborhood, we write a little note to them and take a gift over and say, Hey, this is us. And here's our little story. And here's our phone number. If you need us. And we have plenty of sugar, if you wanna borrow some that kind of thing. And so I had that ready to go. And then we started to say, I'm not gonna loan sugar to a flipper.

16:54 I'm just not gonna do it. if they're not gonna settle into my neighborhood, I don't really wanna take them the Azalia. You know, I'm just not gonna attend that petty. but they, they are settled actually. They're not flippers turns out. So when, , but you know, there's a difference between people who settle in your neighborhood and people who wanna commod your neighborhood. There's a difference one you wanna get to know, and one, you just sort of resent. And I mean, I'm sorry if you're a flipper, I wanna be a flipper too. just that I know those things. so I'm just challenged by this though about, we wanna build in the neighborhood that we're called to, because building is the opposite of breaking. And if I am a renter in this whole place of this temporary kingdom, mostly what I wanna do is sit around and think, you know what I would do.

17:43 If I was running this place, I would do it so much better. I would, you know, I don't like the curtains. I don't like the landscaping who thought that would be a good idea. It's just so easy to be a judge and not a builder. It's so easy to get into that mindset of like the, everything here needs, my opinion, when really everything here needs grace, we are hearing a kingdom that is desperate for grace. And so I wanna know how to build. I building is hard. If, if you've remodeled a kitchen recently, it's hard. It's hard on relationships. It's hard on finances. It's hard, but building does not require us to abdicate our vision for a better kingdom. Being willing to build in this world where we're called. That doesn't mean we agree with it. All that doesn't mean we wouldn't do it differently.

18:41 That doesn't mean I've decided I'm gonna fully compromise all my moral code. It just means that I'm gonna stop throwing stones and pick up a hammer. I'm gonna start contributing to the piece of the city rather than tearing it down. the, the people in Babylon begin to plant. They plant businesses. They build, they grow. They multiply. We'll talk about that in a minute, but they also refused to bow down to the king when he asked them to there, there are lines, they won't cross, but overall, we see that they did it. They built, they built inside of exile. second thing is plant to plant in a, huh? Oh, I'm going backwards meals. I tell you what, I am not good with. The clicker technology is not my big thing. this is technology, a green button and a red button. That's that's the, the sum total of this technology.

19:42 so when we plant, we're just increasing the life giving resources that we bring to whatever space we're in, we're bringing something good. We're planting something good, right? Where we are, in, when we walk into Starbucks, I either have good resources to bring or bad resources to bring, or I can remain entirely indifferent, but that's, those are my options. I either plant or I stay indifferent, or I tear down. Those are my options inside exile and James, the half brother of Jesus. We're actually gonna study his letter in depth in a few weeks, and it's gonna be so good. I love his letter so much, but he writes to the new diaspora in the early church, probably one of the first letters written to the church. And he is facing fierce persecution. All of them are. And he says this who is wise and understanding among you by his good conduct, let him show his works in meekness. I can get this up here. I know I can in the meekness of wisdom, but if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but it is earthly. Unspiritual, listen, demonic for where jealousy and selfish ambition exist. There will be disorder and every vial practice and James is telling us this is coming straight from the pit of hell. And it can impact those of us who are destined for a better kingdom.

21:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure. Then peaceable gentle, opened a reason full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, and a harvest of righteousness is sewn in peace by those who make peace. As we so peace into our relationships, into our community, into our families, into our own hearts, you know, what grows, peaceful things, more peace. And sometimes I think sewing peace doesn't always feel peaceful because it is always easier to be indifferent. It is always easier to just stay out of the way. It's easier to be a passivist. That's not this sometimes sewing peace means I sit down and have a really difficult conversation with someone because I am not content to have a relationship that is full of division. Sometimes sewing peace means I die to my agenda. Sometimes sewing peace means I fight for it. And so why do we need wisdom?

22:22 Because peace can be hard, but we are called to be people who cultivate in captivity. We grow in captivity. We don't just bar the door and hold the Fort and hope Jesus comes and rescues us from this mess we plant, we build. And then it says, we get married. We marry. And this, I think marriage in this context is about a lot of things. It's about love and companionship and pleasure and intimacy. It is I think actually about literal marriage. But I think it's about more than that. This is about forming a faithful and trustworthy Alliance inside of exile. This means I have relationships upon which I depend. I have relationships with people that I need. I am seen and known and loved, not just by the king of the kingdom, but by the people around me who can serve me when times are hard or who I can serve, these relationships are important.

23:27 And in order to build relationships that will lead to legacy. We have to have hope in the future. If we don't have hope in the future, we're gonna shut it down. In 1964. My affor mentioned grandmother was very panicked because she felt like there was gonna be a population explosion. I don't know if any of you remember the, there was a big, you know, oh no, the world is gonna get way too full and way too crowded. And people are gonna starve to death and, and be taken into slavery. And she was convinced that her children, she had three children should not have more children, because those children would definitely be persecuted and starved in slaves. And it sounds crazy, but she believed it strongly. And she made sure that all of her children knew it. And all of her children had already had all their children.

24:16 So they didn't, they weren't worried about it. But then Thanksgiving, 1964, my, my mother, goes for a walk with her sisters in-laws and she says, you guys, I am so nervous. I don't wanna tell mom, but I'm pregnant. And my aunt Nellie says me too. and my aunt Carol says, so am I? And so the three of them gave birth to me and my cousin, Angie and my cousin, Randy. And I am proud to say that the three of us have contributed 27 children into the world. And none of them are slaves. None of them have carried away a captive. None of them have starved. They're all productive members of society. And she just didn't have a view for the future. She had a view for keeping safe, staying hidden. The world is out to get us, but all of our tribe of kids have gone into their world to bring beauty and make a difference.

25:24 And so in order to keep marrying and, and reproducing and developing life, giving friendships relationships that are not just in name only, but they're real, you can count on 'em in order to keep doing that, we have to have hope that God is calling us to something more than just surviving the hand word out here. God is calling us to build something good, to increase people who understand the character of God and will live it out in their world, in this building. Yes. But out, out there more, even more. I used to have this idea that I needed to be really good when I went to Costco, because I knew somebody from west side would probably know me there. So I was trying to be on my best behavior. Isn't that fun? Is that a fun fact about me? And then I was like, oh my gosh.

26:16 If I, I ought be able to be able to be my truest self in front of the people inside this building. I ought be able to be my most obnoxious self in front of you. And I should save my best behavior for people who I don't know if they understand the God of peace. And so we just, I think this idea of, I wanna, I wanna live in a way that creates relationships that are gonna go the distance in this life. And in the next one, I think that's a beautiful idea. And then finally he says, seek peace. We are called to be people of peace. And this instruction has never meant more to me than it means right now. I wanna be so careful even how I talk about this, because I'm frankly saturated with hearing about how icky our world is like everywhere I go, it's unprecedented, terrible times and we are division and we strife and where I hate and we all the things I get it, you get it.

27:13 You don't need me to tell you that, but I am telling you, we need to be people of peace. We are living pretty angsty in exile in America. Division is everywhere. And it hangs like a dense fog over our little rental. And here we are just trying to figure out where do I fit in this? Should I try to fix it? What should I do with all of this division, with the ugly and heavy and confusing things that we're faced with. So sometimes I'm really tempted to get into the middle of it and try to unravel all the strings and get to the truth of everything. Let's figure out the truth about all these issues that keep us up at night. Let's get to the bottom line of it and let me convince everyone else that that my way is clearly the right way clearly.

28:01 And, but what I find is the more I get into the debate of that, the further and further I move from peace. I just move far away from peace. When I get into the tangled mess of it, I do, it, it, it doesn't ever help. And, and as much as I care about the issues, and I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't, and as much as I care about capital T truth, I cannot deny that I pledged my life to the king of the kingdom, whose ingredients are righteousness, peace, and joy. This is the promise for those who follow Jesus in exile or out of it, we can live in peace, even when other people choose not to live in righteousness. You know, when we can't live in peace, when we choose not to live in righteousness, sin will mess us up. And so if there's no peace without righteousness, and there is no joy without peace, have you ever heard somebody say, I am so frantic and desperate and afraid, but so happy.

29:09 They don't work together. These are interconnected. They can't be, they can't be disentangled from each other, righteousness, peace and joy, but you know what? My peace and joy is not connected to somebody else's decision to walk in righteousness. It's not, I still can have a very clear view of what righteousness is, but I cannot let it steal my peace. And my joy. As I walk through Babylon called to sew something into this culture, I am called to pray for peace. I'm called to pray for the good of the place where I have been called to be a renter. And I wanna believe that God can bless and turn and move and love people back to life in a way that all my fighting can't do I wanna seek peace in this place? Seeking peace is not the enemy of walking in righteousness, seeking peace and living in Babylon.

30:12 It, it's not about getting people to agree with my views. It's about a willingness to build, right where I've been put to build there. I, I wanna be faithful to the world that I currently temporarily occupy. My favorite place in the whole world is Florence, Italy. I love it so so much. I went before my husband died and then I went after he died as sort of a restore my soul trip. And I stayed there for a month and I rented an apartment in the middle of the city. And I got to know the guys across the street who ran the pizzeria and the guy around the corner who had a leather shop. And I learned some of the language and I brought home a, a binder full of recipes. And I listened to the church bells from my balcony every morning. And I learned the smells of the city.

31:11 And it was just like, honestly, the closest thing to heaven on earth. And, then I came back here and a little while later, I had a speaking gig in San Diego and they put me up at a hotel in little Italy and it was lovely. It was, it was really cute. And there was some good restaurants and, and it was a, it was a fun time. I, I didn't ever once think, oh, this is Italy. Couple weeks later, I ate it an olive garden. and the grapes there are painted on the wall. Not all, not a harvest. and it says veto when you hear your family, but I never once heard any Italian. They don't speak the language. They don't sorry, but they don't serve the food. they, there were no church bells. It was not Italy. I, I read recently that they changed their motto from when you hear your family to go. All of garden's kinda a simple, I don't know if that's an application of the idea. I don't know, but, I never, once in my time at olive garden was like, whoa, this is Italy. This is it. But I also, once in my time at olive garden felt like I wanna be the girl that stands outside, getting people to sign a petition and make the server speak Italian. I don't need them to change their recipes. I don't need them to play church bells. It's not Italy. It's all of garden.

33:01 And it would. It's great. I love SOPA Tuscan and bread sticks. I'll sit there and have that for lunch. And that's fine. What's not fine. Is if I invest the rest of my energy and my days trying to convince all of garden, they need to be Italy because they can't because I'm destined for something else I'm destined for another place. And so how do we live in exile? We so peace. We plant, we marry, we build, we live like people who are gonna leave the rental better than we found it. We live like people who can be trusted with the weight of the souls that share our city and in doing so, we leave a legacy of righteousness, peace, and what joy, joy, Jesus. We love you. And we thank you that you are bigger than our dreams, all of our dreams and all of our talking about heaven and eternity in the kingdom that you've planned for us fall.

34:19 So, so short. And I'm so grateful for that. And so God, I asked that you would both wake up our vision for what's coming and wake up our vision for what's here. Would you cause us to be joyful, faithful, peaceful planters here in our city, in our neighborhood, in our families, at our jobs, wherever our feet wa God would you let us leave a little gospel glitter behind that shows people the hint that something better is coming. Something better is coming. We love you so so much. We are in awe of your love for us. And we give you praise and glory for who you are and what you do, because it's always beautiful in your name. We pray. Amen.