Jeremiah 29 (NIV)
A Letter to the Exiles29 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 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.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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 hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the building of our sanctuary, I have been thinking about how the world has changed in 40 years. We live in a very different world to the world that existed in 1973.
Fashions have changed, cars have changed, money has devalued and the Christian faith is not the dominant force that it used to be. Tolerance has become the god of this age. As the late Chuck Colson put it in his book, The Faith:
Tolerance once meant listening respectfully to all points of view, freely discussed in our common search for the truth. But the creed for the new god of tolerance is that knowing truth is impossible. So everyone is free to think and act as he likes, with one exception: those who have the audacity to believe that they know the truth, particularly if they think God has revealed it to them, are not tolerated. The result is that those who crowned the new god of tolerance have become the absolute arbiters of culture. The new god of tolerance becomes, in the guise of tolerance, an absolute tyrant. (p. 68).Many are suggesting that the church in the West is a church in exile. As we read Jeremiah's advice to the Jews in exile in Babylon, what lessons can we learn as we come to terms with living as Christians in a new and different world?
Do you agree that the church in the West is a church in exile? Why or why not? If you agree, what does it mean for us at DPC and each one of us as we minister as a member of it?