“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. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.” (Jer. 29:11-12)
The year 2020 seemed like a year in exile for much of the world, and that sense has continued into 2021. Who would have imagined that the entire world would be locked down due to COVID-19?! Every facet of our lives has been impacted by the pandemic, and the church is no exception. We have had to change the way we worship, the way we share in fellowship, the way we serve and care for one another and our communities. Yet in the midst of this uncertainty, we are reminded by the words in Jeremiah that God has plans for us, plans for a future with hope.
I know many churches have responded faithfully to a new reality. We have adapted to online worship, and we have reached out to people through Zoom calls, phone conversations and socially distanced walks. Our congregation served take-out meals to those who could no longer come and sit together at a table, but who still needed the care of God’s people. While many might long for a return to the way things used to be, I am convinced that God speaks to the people in exile, not of a return to their past, but of a future with hope.
Earlier in Jeremiah, we read that God commands the people of Israel to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and to pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.” The command of God to the people of Israel is not to wait until God has delivered them from exile, but to continue in their faithfulness in the midst of exile. To engage in life and in living.
As we seek the welfare of the communities in which God has planted us, even, and especially, in a pandemic, the skills we learn, the compassion we extend, the relationships we build in new ways with new technology, will help build the foundations upon which God will continue to grow our future. This is a time of building momentum, not reminiscing.
My congregation and I will continue in prayerful discernment about how best to seek the welfare of the place where God has placed us, to minister faithfully and passionately without looking back to the comforts of what used to be, but trusting in the God who promises us a future with hope.
Read the other stories of our second Easter apart: