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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land: Jeremiah 29.1-14


[NB: On the Sunday evening after the 2012 election,I preached this sermon. I am posting the audio link HERE. for you to listen to while reviewing these notes.I hope you find this encouraging, helpful, and re-orienting]
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Something that we as Christians need to remember is that we are dual-citizens, & that creates for us a weirdness that we want resolved. But to resolve this weirdness by going too far in either direction places us in a perilous situation. The reality is voiced in the words of Moses Exodus 2.22, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” This idea of being aliens, outlanders, foreigners became a motif in Scripture for God’s Church, in both the Old Testament & the New. Let us look at the direction God gives to His strangers in a strange land.

Strangers—V.1.  Background-Chapter 24 (5-7). They are strangers [exiles] for their own good.

A Strange Land—V.4-14. ….how should they respond?
1. V.5-6: Build, develop, be fruitful & multiply (v.10: a true act of faith!).
2. V.7: Prosper the pagans & so be prospered. Notice how the welfare of God’s people becomes the avenue, the 8-lane freeway, of God’s gracious kindness to come flooding God’s enemies with God’s Goodness! We’re just plain good for the world!
3. V.8-9: Be careful not to get side tracked. In 21-32 God mentions & denounces 3 specific side-trackers, by name. Don’t let these talking heads to get you side-tracked & off-course!
4. V.10-14a: V.11!!! Hope in God‘s Rescue; look for God‘s rescue, live into the hope of God‘s rescue.
So, what does this all have to do with the election last Tuesday, the United States of America, & us as Christians?

1st-On one side: As Christians, we must always remember that we are strangers in a strange land. 1 Peter 2.9-17: Because of v.9-10 we are verse 11-12; & live out v.13-17.
[9-But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10-Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11-Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12-Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.13-Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14-or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15-For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16-Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17-Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.]
2nd-On the other side: But it also means that we love our country. We seek the shalom of the country, prospering it, praying for it, living responsibly in it, serving it (military & civil service), etc. We end up prospering the pagans & so are prospered ourselves. We live, work, raise children, & educate them, clean our houses, mow our yards, we pray for our leaders (“Love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Mt.5.44-45) – have you been praying for President & Michelle Obama as you would pray for me, or your mom…), etc, with the sure & certain knowledge that we have a future, a future when Christ returns & the meek inherit the earth.

Pulling these together: Toward the end of the 2nd Century, a chap named Diognetus received a letter from a Christian. It was a letter defending Christians & Christianity. & in it the writer describes how ordinary Christians are, while being unordinary. 
“But while they live in both Greek & barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, & follow the local customs in dress & food & other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable & admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, & endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, & every fatherland is foreign country.”
3rd-Finally, Perspective: We know that God has providentially steered the “course of human events” that has brought about this Country, & we have a divine vocation, a responsibility to promote the good of our nation & its citizens. Therefore we live as good, loyal citizens of the Country with our gaze beyond the disappointments, discouragements, & betrayals, & we act in faith by living out the new heavens & new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is this hopeful, future-grounded, Christ-dominated stance that keeps us going when others will throw up their hands in disgusted resignation. Richard John Neuhaus, American Babylon p.23, stated it this way: 
“….one derives from [Augustine’s] writings, what is best described as an “Augustinian sensibility.” It is the sensibility of the pilgrim through time who resolutely resists the temptation to despair in the face of history’s disappointments & tragedies, & just as resolutely declines the delusion of having arrived at history’s end.”
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Mike

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