We've been reading through Jeremiah for the last several weeks--following this prophet through his warnings and into exile for the people. This week, Jeremiah sends a letter to his community, in exile.
He tells them something that seems unlikely and beautiful: to seek the welfare of the city where they are in exile.
(Last week, perhaps you remember the depth of grief that exile brought to the Psalmist? Weeping, refusing to sing songs, even dreaming of ugly violence against the captors.)
Jeremiah asks the people to work for the well-being of their captors.
"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."
Jeremiah refuses to let the people get caught in anger, or in fear, or in isolation.
What an incredible vision for what we're called to: even as we are distant from the world that God intends for us, we are invited to invest in things that are good. (For Jeremiah, that list includes building homes, planting gardens, committing to partners and families, and seeking the welfare of others.)
This is a dream that enlivens me. It's part of what makes me so energized to have moved to Mid-City--as my husband and I are building our home (and planting our garden) and building our relationship, we are also hopeful that we can be a part of seeking the welfare of the community. Now, Mid-City isn't exactly Babylon, but it is home to a lot of people from a lot of places and cultures. And I believe God is calling our church to seek its welfare--the wellbeing of diverse and often poor people. Imagine what might be possible if we were not only to figure out how to live in proximity, but how to form community?
In seeking that, I believe we will find the welfare of ourselves. And our church.
I'm inspired also by people who've been doing this in other ways, elsewhere around the country. Many folks are part of a movement often called "new monasticism." You can see a website here and an interview from public radio's "Speaking of Faith" here.