Your Home Is Here, Right Now, Seriously

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14 – November 24, 2013

1 These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. 10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

 

What did you think of that video?  (Click here to watch that video.) Random strangers asked to pose for pictures together, like they’re family.  Like they’re in the middle of life together instead of a staged, made up reality.  Yet, did you hear their reactions?  They left these brief encounters changed.  They cared for the person they just met.  It stirred up new curiosity about the lives of all of the people they pass on the street every day.  “It is kind of lovely.  It is lovely,” says the photographer.  In just this brief encounter, a connection is made.  The stranger becomes friend.  They shake hands. They hug.

Yet, did you hear how incredulous the reporter sounds as they tell him these things?  You cared for her?  Revealing just how we underestimate one another’s capacity for love; for acknowledging another person’s basic humanity.  Yet, he ends his report with these words about the photographer’s project: He shows us humanity as it could be, as most of us wish it would be.

God uses Jeremiah today to call upon our humanity.  Only it’s not as easy as grabbing complete strangers off of a busy street in Manhattan, New York.  Jeremiah is writing to people in exile.  He’s writing to people who were forced from their homes and marched from Jerusalem to Babylon and put to work.  He’s writing to the elite.  The king came into Jerusalem and took the elite class – the religious rulers and the artists and money makers; the powerful people.  They’re the ones now living in the land of their sworn enemy, the land of their captor.  And do you know what God’s comforting words are?

Get comfortable.

Live where you are.

I’ll bring you back. Eventually.

Actually, it’ll be your great-grandchildren who will be brought back home.  3 and ½ generations from now.

God goes on to tell them: be concerned for the welfare of the Babylonians because it’s your new home. As Eugene Peterson says it in The Message translation of the Bible: build houses and make yourselves at home. Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country. Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away. Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare. Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you. Or, in other words: Have full lives where you are. Don’t wait to come home – be home.

Ah! What terrible, terrible news.  What a horrible letter to have sent from a prophet to a people in captivity.  People who would die in this land they didn’t even consider home.

Jeremiah is telling them to redefine home.

How do you define home? Is it where you were born? Is it where you’ve lived the most?  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met here in Hutchinson (or anywhere else, for that matter) who, when I ask them “are you from here?” will hem and haw.  Well, yah, I’ve lived here for 20 or 30 or 40 years but… And I’ll interject, “well, it seems like that should count.  Hutchinson is home then?”  Yes, they’ll say, eyes lighting up, having been located.

It’s not that it doesn’t matter where we’ve come from, where we were born, where we lived. Of course those matter. I was born in Ohio, and have lived in Missouri, Montana, Illinoi, and Idaho. Yet, I’m from Minnesota. I’ve had experiences in all those other places that make me who I am. They’ve shaped me. They matter.  And, I’ll always have a deep nostalgia for Iowa and South Dakota, where I’ve never even lived, but because my mom was born in Iowa and my dad in South Dakota.  There’s something deep inside of them will always harken back to those places. Yet neither have lived in those places for over 40 years and Minnesota is now home.

But all those other places were home, too.  And they became home in really normal, every day kinds of ways.

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In Missoula I hiked “the M”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

middle fork salmon rafting with ROW_0

and went white water rafting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

n Oregon, Illinois I canoed the Rock River...

In Oregon, Illinois I canoed the Rock River…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I toured the nuclear power plant just 10 miles away

I toured the nuclear power plant just 10 miles away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and made trips to Chicago.

and made trips to Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I learned that a lot of folks in Illinois say “El-inois”

I learned that a lot of folks in Illinois say “El-inois”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…not to mention “melk” or “pellow” instead of “milk” or “pillow.” 🙂

Idahoans also like to make HUGE replicas of things they can eat...

Idahoans also like to make HUGE replicas of things they can eat…

In Idaho, I learned that the best potatoes in Idaho are sent out of state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boise is with an "s" sound people…unless you want to sound like a tourist and use the "z" sound.

Boise is with an “s” sound people…unless you want to sound like a tourist and use the “z” sound.

I learned you say “Boise” with an “s” sound and not a “z” sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

smurf turf!

smurf turf!

I went to football games at Boise State and marveled at the smurf turf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sawtooths!

Sawtooths!

 

I learned the Sawtooth mountain range and how to drive over mountain passes. I was introduced and loved “fry sauce.”

 

 

 

I lived where I was. And that involved getting to know the people of that place – not just the geography. It’s the people that made the place home.

It wasn’t easy, making a new home in each place. It took concerted effort.  There were a few places I’ve lived where I’d always be the outsider, always be the person not from there.  Yet, there I was, making my home.

When have you been the outsider? The visitor?  The stranger?  When have you been the one to not know the local traditions?  When has your world so changed, so shifted that you look around and can’t figure out where you are, let alone where you’re from?

The photographer in the story changed those people’s day, maybe even altered their reality by having them connect to a complete stranger.  To see that they both call the same city, the same planet, home. To connect with each other on a simple, basic, human level. This is how we make our home, folks, through relationships with other people.

The reporter in the story says this about the photographer: He shows us humanity as it could be, as most of us wish it would be.

And, what I think God longs for in us is to live into the humanity God created in us and through us. God created us to reach out and love other people because that’s just how powerful and creative God is.  God yearns for us to love each other. God wired us that way.

So, today God uses Jeremiah to tell the people: live where you are because I am there. You are at home where you are.  You will find me in the people there. In strangers, and enemies.

It’s as if God is saying to the people in exile, and to us today:  be changed.  It’s as if God is saying, I’m with you wherever you are.  It’s as if God is saying, I am your home.

 

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