Saturday, October 8, 2016

“Making the Best of It” (Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7)

Hope . . . we all need it.

Years ago I heard a story about two little boys who were wishing for a pony for Christmas.  They really wanted a pony.  Come Christmas morning they both tore off for the barn to see whether or not Santa Claus had brought them a pony. Running into the barn they found a huge pile of manure . . . a huge pile.  The older brother stopped in his tracks . . . the younger brother jumped right into the middle of it  The older brother saw nothing but a big pile of manure . . . and, he was confused as to his brother’s actions of jumping right into the thick of it all throwing manure left and right.  The older brother realized that there was no pony, and he wonder what in the heck his younger brother was doing.

In astonishment, the brother asked the younger one, what is the world he was doing.  To which the younger brother answered, “With such a huge pile of manure there has to be a pony in there somewhere!!!”

Hope . . . optimism.  That little guy had a whole bunch of both.

In our scripture reading this morning, the chosen people of God--Israel--are struggling with their situation.  They are in exile . . . captives of Babylon . . .captives because they chose not to follow the will of God,   For choosing not to follow the will of God the people have suffered a humiliating at the hands of the Babylonians and have become exiles in a foreign land.  They now live in a another country . . . a land that is foreign to them.  They cannot go home . . . they are stuck in a place that is unknown and foreign to them.

So, what are they to do?

Well, to be honest, they are like that little boy sitting in the pile of manure . . . certain there is a pony somewhere in the midst of all of manure.  The question becomes whether or not they are going to accept the pessimistic view of the older brother or the optimistic view of the younger brother.  That is the question.

As the children of God, this was a tough choice.

On the one hand, they remembered the promises of God . . . to create them as a great nation . . . to be more numerous than the stars in the heavens.  On the other hand, they were up the creek without a paddle . . they were exiled from their own country and made to live in a foreign land.  The language was different . . they culture was different . . . they were in an unfamiliar place.  They were in a quandary . . . what were they to do? Well, the prophet Jeremiah has a few choice words to say about it.  The prophet Jeremiah tells them to make the best of it.

As you listen to the words of Jeremiah, he tells the people to make the best of tt . . . no matter what is thrown at them, they are to make the best of it.  To go with the flow because God will take care of them.  Thus it is that the prophet tells the people to settle into their new environment . . . to adapt to what is.  The prophet tells them to make the best of it.  After all, is there exile not the result of their failure to do as God expect . . . is it not a consequence of their own action . . . or should we say their non-action.  Thus they are stuck in Babylon.  They have two choices . . . fight it or follow in line.

Here the prophet Jeremiah reminds them that it is better to be safe than sorry.  After all, the promises of God never change.

The promises of God are eternal.    They never ever change.  The goal is always to do God’s will.  Jeremiah believes it . . . Jeremiah preaches it.  It is pretty simple . . . God’s way or the highway!

We live in a of time of great unrest . . . so, what are we to do?

As the followers of Jesus we are to make the best of it.

Though few of us have ever experienced the situation that is shared in our scripture reading, we do have the ability of choose.  Are we pessimists or are we optimistics.  The choice is entirely ours.  If God gives you a bunch of lemons . . . make lemonade.

In the situation of God’s children in this particular reading they are in a bad situation . . . life is suddenly different . . . life is hard . . . and, no one asked to be there.  They are in a foreign land with strangers . . . strangers that are their enemies . . . strangers that are now their captors.  They have been humiliated and embarrassed . . . and many even wished they were dead than where they are.  Life is ruined and as far as some are concerned it is over.  Then they get this letter from the prophet Jeremiah telling them to make the best of it.  Again, we all know that this is easier said than done.

But the children of God in this situation forget.  Jeremiah reminds them.  Jeremiah reminds them that they are still the children of God.  Jeremiah reminds them that the promises of God are still theirs.  And, Jeremiah reminds them that they are still to go about the business of doing God’s will . . . of doing God’s will even in a situation that seems rotten to the core.  God will not abandon them or forget them.  At the same time, God is not going to rescue them from a situation that came from their own hands.  Consequences are consequences.  Thus Jeremiah urges them to make the best of a bad situation.  If they do that, well then, things will turn out alright.

I imagine that most of us would more readily identify with those who are in exile in this passage . . . not quite sure what good could ever come out of making the best of a bad situation.  None of us enjoys life when it throws us a curveball and messes everything up.  None of us likes it when our lives get turned upside down and dumps us in the muck.  And, yet, it seems to happen more often than we are willing to admit.  Thus we moan and groan . . . we lament about how bad things are . . . and, then, we do it some more.  And, like the children of God in the scripture reading this morning, we forget.

We forget that we, too, are the children of God.  We forget that the promises of God never change.  We forget that we have a role to play in God’s will and desire to establish the kingdom that never ends . . . that we have a part in it all.  We forget that God is not going to abandon us.  And, because we forget, we flounder in our faith.  Floundering in our faith, we moan, groan, and lament.

Thus we are reminded this morning through the words of the prophet Jeremiah . . . never forget!  Never forget that we are the beloved children of a loving and graceful God who will never, ever abandon us . . . not in our good times which are easy to celebrate, or in our bad times which are more difficult to understand and to acknowledge as more of a complaint than a blessing.  Jeremiah tells the people that it is their choice . . . make the best of it or perish in their own faithlessness.  In Jeremiah’s words he presents hope.  Doing something is better than doing nothing.  Make the best of it.  As someone once said, “Life is what you make of it.”  It is their choice.

It is the same for us.

It is our choice.

May we choose God and God’s will.  May we make the best of what we have been given.  Amen.  

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