Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God. ”Jeremiah 31:2
To be honest, when you are a pastor and you are preaching on Easter, you really don’t pay much attention to the other readings outside of the Easter Gospel. Well, at least I don’t. Maybe better pastors than I do. The above reading was part of our Easter worship yesterday and other than copying and pasting it into the bulletin I didn’t even give it a single glance or read even a single word of it until I read it during the worship service. And as I read it, it really struck me as appropriate for our times.
This reading in Jeremiah is written for those who are in exile in Babylon and they are words for us who face our own exile right now. We are exiled from our schools, jobs, churches, social gatherings, and much more. We are coping with a reality that seems like it may extend much longer than we ever thought even a month. We might even be going a little stir crazy and getting a little cranky. We might be frustrated and starting to wonder if this will ever end.
Then we hear these words of hope and promise. We are loved with an everlasting love. We shall be built again, we shall again sing for joy, we shall plant and harvest. In other words, we will be restored.
To the exiles in Babylon, these words of God from the prophet Jeremiah gave them hope that they had not been forgotten and that they would be restored again. For us, these words remind us that we also are not forgotten and that we will also be restored. We will again gather with friends and family in the joys of praising God at church and the joy of being together in places where we don’t have to wear masks or stand six-feet apart. We will be built up through the activities that we so often took for granted and now would love to have again, to go to the grocery store without fear or attend a movie or sporting event or eat in the dining room of a restaurant.
We may be in exile right now but we will not lose hope because we have a faithful and loving God who is giving us strength and patience and reminding us that we are not alone in this. We will be restored because our loving and gracious Savior redeems us, restores us, and strengthens us. Hang in there, my friends, and remember that God is faithful to you and will be with you.