The prophet Jeremiah called God’s people in exile in Babylon to seek the wellbeing of their Babylonian captors. That sounds an awful lot like Jesus’ call to love our enemies. Where does the will and the power to do that come from?
In search of an answer, here is a sermon I preached for an ecumenical worship service gathering people from all around the city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was part of a summer series on the theme of being the peace of the city.
The Power to Seek Peace
A Sermon on Jeremiah 29:4-7 and Ephesians 2:13-18
With allusions to Psalm 137 and Luke 6:27-36
Rocky Mount Summer Community Worship Service
Sunday, July 31, 2016
St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church
Somewhere in Babylon around the year 593, a congregation of homesick exiles from Jerusalem was listening to the reading of a letter from the prophet Jeremiah back home. They could not believe their ears! Say what, Jeremiah? Put down roots in Babylon? Seek the shalom—the welfare, the wellbeing, the peace—of Babylon? Pray for the Babylonians?
Imagine the murmuring! Jeremiah, they brought us here against our will! They worship gods with names like Marduk. Everything is foreign to us here. These people have hurt us as deeply as ever we could be hurt! Pray blessing and peace on Babylon?
Jeremiah, you know not! What we really want is for somebody to come in here and make the Babylonians suffer, pay them back. See, we do have a prayer, and it goes like this: blessed be the one who takes your children and smashes them against the rock! (Psalm 137).
Meanwhile the letter reader’s voice was continuing: because… in Babylon’s wellbeing you will find your wellbeing.
Jeremiah’s call sounds an awful lot like the call Jesus gave his followers. Jesus said, “But I say to you that are listening, love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.”
There’s no question about it: God was asking a very hard thing of the exiles. Did they heed Jeremiah’s words? (more…)