This passage may be familiar to you for a couple of reasons. Firstly, some of you may remember that last year as part of our Unraveled series we had this very same reading, and we held the service out in the garden as a nod to the instructions given by Jeremiah. Secondly, and probably more likely is that you may know too well verse 11, brought to you by coffee mugs, posters, ornamental crosses, fridge magnets & t-shirts. I know that I have been one to gift and receive an item or two with Jeremiah 11 written across them, and perhaps you may have as well. But the text we are exploring today is far deeper and far richer than that highly misquoted verse. Yes, this reading is about hope but it is not to be understood as individualistic or instantaneous (I will unpack this on Sunday). At it’s core this readings purpose can be found in verses 5-7, where; the exiled Jewish community were instructed to build houses, plant gardens and grow their families - all things focused on ‘staying put’. For the Jewish people this was an uneasy, unknown and unplanned time period. We read in the previous Chapter that Hananiah informed the Jewish community they would be home in a couple of years. The community had rested on this story, but it wasn't long until we uncover Hananiah to be a false prophet, and this timeline of returning home is not going to happen any time soon. It is here where we read about Jeremiah. Jeremiah shares the uneasy reality that the Jewish community are going to be in exile for much longer than those couple of years. We are told that Jeremiah makes it clear it will be at least 70 years! Whether this was literally 70 years of not being home, or a metaphorical ‘really, really long time’, it became clear that this community was not going to be seeing the Promised Land any time soon; possibly their children might, but the richness of this hope is held in the inherited promise that is to come. The Jews weren’t going anywhere for a really long time. I don’t know about you, but the ins and outs of lockdowns and restrictions have started to feel like a really long time, we have been living through this uneasy, unknown and unplanned pandemic. So a couple of questions to ask us as we emerge in the coming weeks: What have we collectively built and grown during this time to sustain our welfare and that of those around us? What moments and words of courage and wisdom can we read from this scripture?
As a church, let us take some time and ask ourselves: what is God is calling us to continue to build back better?