Warren Seibert has been preaching a phenomenal series of sermons on Daniel. You can find them on his Facebook page and listen to them AFTER you listen to (or attend!) our services. Warren’s preaching reminded me of what God did with his people exiled in Babylon. Did he order them to rebel? No. Did he order them to sabotage their enemy/captors? No. Did God encourage them the raise a militia to overthrow them? No. None of the above. God ordered them to hunker down and live their lives in captivity.
So we read God’s words to his people in exile in Babylon in Jeremiah (chapter 29), “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.” What would they have to do? Trust God.
We are weary of our captivity. It is not the Babylonian Captivity; it is the Pandemic Captivity. We wish it would end and we could get back to what we know and the lives we used to love. But not yet. What are we called to do? Trust God.
We are to live lives of faithfulness no matter the times or the seasons. We are to follow Christ no matter whether living is easy or hard. And we are to bear witness to the world. We are not to give in to the ways of the world. We are to live as God’s people no matter the cost. But it is not our task to overthrow the world. Our task is the same one God is doing. Remember? For God so loved the world.
Jesus is subversive. That’s for sure. He does not accommodate himself to worldly ways. But our symbol for him is a cross. Jesus dies for the world. Jesus undermines the world with love. That is what the church does too. We honor God with our worship. The worst part of this sheltering in place is not being able to gather as Christ’s church. Week after week Akiko, Kelly and I (and sometimes Cheryl Egan and once Emily Russoniello) look out over empty pews and we ache for us all to be together. I know you are aching too.
Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” The world does not dominate Jesus, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and will judge the quick and the dead. But we are always to remember the means of his conquest. Not the sword, missile or bomb. It is a cross. Jesus emptied himself to fill us up and our cup sure runneth over!
In 1 Chronicles (22:19) God’s people are urged, 19 Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Go and build the sanctuary of the Lord God so that the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a house built for the name of the Lord.” How are we going to make it through, to persevere, to triumph even in our circumstances? By setting our minds and hearts on the Lord our God. When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy (6:13), “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
We endure and come into our inheritance as God’s saints by our love and loyalty to Jesus and our trust in God. These are our chart and compass, and these alone keep us on the right path, the true course.
We want to be able to say with the apostle, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) We follow the exhortation, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
We may be surrounded by a culture that does not honor God. But we are not part of it. Stanley Hauerwas said we are “resident aliens” in this world. We must be careful. William Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us…” We must be wary of giving in to a world that defies God, remembering instead that we are praying for the coming of God’s kingdom. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” The words of Philippians 3 guide us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”