Jeremiah 29:4, 7 - "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon ... 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."
This devotion is based on the same text for this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon titled, "Seek the Welfare of the City," which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
This summer my family took a road trip. On the way, we listened to The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Published back in 1954, it's a classic literary fantasy about a great battle between good and evil. Many people have become acquainted with The Lord of the Rings story through the movie adaptations. But, to use the old cliché, the book is better. That's because, in the book, the author makes time to linger on the good—the small stops along the way that are reminders of the world's enduring goodness, even in the midst of the battle with evil. In the movie—it's mostly battle scenes. But in the book, there's a rhythm. There are moments of strife and suffering, but also seasons of rest and peace—signs that the story is leading to a time "when the world is mended" (The Fellowship of the Ring, 154).
This is similar to the story that shaped Jeremiah, the prophet, whose letter we heard in today's Scripture. Now, it's different because Jeremiah's story is real and Tolkien's is invented. Although, as a Christian, Tolkien took much of the inspiration for his book from God's Book. And like Tolkien, Jeremiah knew that he lives in a world authored for good by the God who is good. The goodness of God's world goes back further than the battle with evil. The light of the world will outshine the darkness. That's why Jeremiah can tell the exiles to "seek the welfare of the city." Though the battle with evil continues, Jeremiah believes that, even now in captivity, God wants them to linger in moments and seasons of peace as they work with others for the good of the city. Jeremiah assures them and us: despite the damage sin has done, even in the darkest days, the goodness of God's gifts endures.
Some would have you believe that this world is a story without an author, headed nowhere, ending in darkness. And if that's the case, the best thing you can do is seek your own welfare. And try to enjoy it while it lasts. But followers of Jesus, you and I, we live in a different story—the true story of this world. For us, the Book is better than any movie, because God Himself has become a character in this story. Jesus, God's Son, became one of us. The King who died and rose will return. Because of Him, this world is on the way to be mended. And on the way, we seek not our ourselves, but the welfare of others, of the city, of the neighborhood, of the people around us.
THE PRAYER: Father, You once declared the world "good," and in Jesus and Your Spirit, You're making it good again. In this ongoing, spiritual battle against evil, help me linger on the good. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Where do you see evidence for the false belief that the world is "a story without an author, headed nowhere, ending in darkness"?
2. What helps you remember and live in the True Story of the world?
3. What's something you can do in your neighborhood to reflect your hope that this world is being mended in Jesus?
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