In 587 BC the prophet Jeremiah bought a plot of land north of Jerusalem. At the time of its purchase the countryside surrounding Jerusalem, including Jeremiah’s new field, was under the control of the invading Babylonian army and Jerusalem was under siege.
When everyone else was taking what they could carry and fleeing for their lives, Jeremiah bought land that he might never see again. Jeremiah’s purchase is one of the most striking demonstrations of faithfulness in all of the Old Testament.
Last week I saw a picture of a man planting seedlings on a rooftop in the middle of a bombed out city in Syria. My mind was immediately drawn to Jeremiah and his field. Although separated in time by more than 2600 years, the rooftop garden in Arbin, Syria is less than 200 miles from Jeremiah’s field in Anathoth, and it is an equally striking demonstration of faithfulness.
I needed to see that picture from Syria last week. It reminded me that we ALWAYS have more to offer than our surroundings might suggest. It reminded me that the future is worth believing in whatever our present circumstances.
And, it reminded me that even the gloomiest of prophets—Jeremiah was so pessimistic about Jerusalem’s future that he was thrown in prison!—can demonstrate faith in the future.
I’ll admit it. Sometimes I can be a bit of a gloomy prophet. Maybe you have that tendency, too. Sometimes I worry about churches that are struggling to find their footing in a changing world. I wonder if we’re making the difference we ought to be making. I worry when we’re not as faithful to Christ’s vision of God’s Kingdom as we should be.
We live in a tense time of religious, social and political transition. As many of us struggle to negotiate the shifting ground, hope can sometimes be hard to come by.
But if a man can plant seedlings in the concrete jungle of a Syrian war zone and Jeremiah can buy a war-torn field, we can demonstrate hopefulness, too.
I found hope last weekend in Macon, GA at March Mission Madness, a youth missions weekend sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia.
More than 200 teenagers and chaperones spent the weekend painting houses, cleaning up yards, planting gardens, packing lunches, serving meals, and helping those in need all over the city.
Their work reminded me to be hopeful. And it reminded me to do three things.
1. Be relentlessly future oriented. All of the work accomplished at March Mission Madness was an investment in tomorrow. The impact of refurbished houses, nourished children and improved communities will reverberate for years, maybe even generations. And, perhaps even more importantly, the opportunity our teenagers were given to serve others will have a lasting impact on their own lives, too. So plant seeds and buy new fields.
2. Add beauty to something desolate. The Syrian garden is a striking image of new life in a landscape scarred by death. Last weekend in Macon as gardens sprang up where weeds once stood and new colors replaced peeling paint, God’s promise for the future was tangibly demonstrated in the work of our teenagers. Watching them I was reminded that, as Christians, bringing new life to desolate places is kind of our specialty.
3. Do something for someone else. When you’re not sure what the future holds, don't just look out for yourself, do something for someone else. Acts of kindness are inherently hopeful acts. Leave a few extra dollars for the wait staff when you eat out next. Smile and make eye contact with the person across the counter. Send an encouraging note. Invite someone to share a meal with you. Be intentional with every act and gesture of your life. Let people catch you being kind and generous.
Jeremiah bought a field, and his demonstrated hopefulness has inspired millions of people for more than two millennia. Last weekend I saw that 200 people working together can impact the lives of hundreds of families in lasting ways. And one man in Syria has inspired at least one man in Canton for the last two weeks.
What kind of impact will the next thing you do have? Make it hopeful.
See you Sunday.