Jeremiah 29:7  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.”


          Poor Jeremiah never gets to say things that the people really want to hear.  He has to tell them that they are miles away from the kind of behavior God wants from them and that their destruction is imminent.  As an enemy empire surrounds them in siege, Jeremiah tells the king that God wants him to surrender to the opposing force.  That gets him thrown in a cistern for awhile.  Then, after the people have been starved, brutalized, many slaughtered, the poor and unskilled left to scavenge, and the rest carried off into exile in the conquering nation, Jeremiah is supposed to tell the exiles to work for the peace and prosperity of their enemy.  That probably wasn’t the first idea that popped into their heads.


          But God’s words to Israel through Jeremiah represent the truth of the old adage, “Bloom where you are planted” or the old hymn “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.”  (Hear the hymn and read the lyrics here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/b/r/brighten.htm.) Never mind that you have been uprooted and planted somewhere you never wanted to be, make the best of it.  If you work for the good of the place where you are, everyone…including you…wins.  A happy and prosperous enemy is soon an enemy no longer, and that indeed happens with Israel. 


With the infusion of talent from Israel, Babylon flourishes.  The wise Daniel rises to be a chief advisor to the king.  The righteous Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prove in the fiery furnace that the God of Israel trumps all other Gods and the king is converted.  Eventually king Cyrus gives permission to Ezra and Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple and city, returning all the sacred items taken from there when the city was sacked.  They were taken by an enemy; they returned with an ally, all because they finally heeded the word of the Lord through Jeremiah.  They sought the peace and prosperity of their enemy, and they, too, prospered.


We can learn from this on every level.  We are first planted on the earth.  If we seek the well-being of the earth and all that is in it, if we lend it our protection and our talents, the earth will flourish and so will we.  We are next planted in a nation—maybe the one of our birth, maybe not.  But whether we see the nation where we reside as friend or foe, our own peace and prosperity is tied to it.  It needs our prayers and our gifts.  It is the same with our town, our church or other faith community, our family, our workplace.  We are connected, like it or not, to those places and situations and our own well-being is intimately tied to theirs.  Even if it is exile.  Even if we were taken there against our will.  “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”


God’s commands to us, like the commands of any loving parent, are not meant to make life difficult.  They show us the way to a peaceful and prosperous life together…not peace and prosperity for one at the expense of another but for everyone.  If we are to have that, we have to swallow hard and follow the ways of God.  To speak well of our enemies, not to engage in smear campaigns…either politically or personally.  To seek the good of the place where we are…a good that is defined by liberty and justice, righteousness and peace.  Brighten the corner where you are.  It’s the word of the Lord.


From our place of exile, Lord, we still listen for your voice and seek to follow your will.  Amen.


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