Bloom Where You Are Planted

X BURNT HOUSE X JEREMIAH SURVIVED DESTRUCTION X build houses plant gardens MARRY X BUILD A NEW TEMPLE X JEWS DID WELL IN BABYLON X BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED 1 X A FUTURE AND A HOPE X PRAYER X FRENETIC UNGUIDED BUSYNESS X GOD HAS LEARNED A GREAT DEAL X DEEP LISTENING X SEEK ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART X GOD DOES NOT DEPEND ON OUR FAITHFULNESS X SACRED MASCULINE ENERGY X BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED 2Bloom Where You Are Planted

SLIDE 3:

BURNT HOUSE

When the Babylonians finally breached the wall and sacked Jerusalem it was a mess.  If you ever visit Jerusalem there is an attraction in the Jewish Quarter just off of the major square called “Burnt House.”  This is an excavation going down at least twenty feet below the present street level.  The archaeologists have unearthed arrows and spear points from the battle that took place, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem.  There is a level of charcoal there indicating where the City was torched.

SLIDE 4

:  JEREMIAH SURVIVED

It is amazing given the record of destruction that Jeremiah survived the sack of Jerusalem.  Not only did he stay alive but the Babylonian King honored him for being a seer.   When much of the population of Judah was carted off into slavery, Jeremiah was allowed to stay in Judah with a small community of survivors.  Needless to say after Jeremiah’s prophecies were proved correct, his stock went way up.  People started bragging on him calling him a true prophet.

SLIDE 5:

BUILD HOUSES, PLANT GARDENS, MARRY

Meanwhile in Babylon false prophets were telling the slaves not to settle in, because they would be going home soon.  So some of the captive Jews began writing to Jeremiah asking him to tell them more about his prophetic vision that they would one day return to the land of Israel.  Jeremiah wrote back that while vineyards would once again be bought and sold in the land of Judah, the time of return was still a ways in the future, and the exiles should be prepared for a long wait and make the best of their new situation.

Jeremiah 29:  5  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  6  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  7  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.

SLIDE 6:

BUILD A NEW TEMPLE AND SACRIFICE ANIMALS

The Jews in Babylon made themselves useful.  They prospered, and in their foreign home they re-invented Judaism organized around a new institution called the synagogue.  In Babylon Judaism changed from a religion primarily organized around a cult of animal sacrifice in a temple to a faith nurtured in a house of prayer and the study of scripture.  There are some ultra-orthodox Jews today who want to knock down the Dome of the Rock, rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and re-institute the animal sacrifices.  Can you imagine slaughtering cows, sheep, goats and pigeons on a flaming altar on the Temple Mount?  Our PETA members would certainly object as well as most of the Muslims of the world.

SLIDE 7:

JEWS DID WELL IN BABYLON

The Jews did so well in Babylon many of them stayed behind, and never returned to Israel.  They became high ranking officials in the Persian Empire, one of them, Esther, even became Queen.  The Jews who remained behind in Babylon also developed superior methods of Biblical interpretation, so that the Babylonian Talmud is considered to be superior to the Jerusalem Talmud.  When Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish people dismembered again in 70 A.D. Babylon became the center of scholarship for the Jewish Diaspora.

SLIDE 8:

BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED

Jeremiah’s advice to bloom where you are planted was not only applicable to the Jewish exiles of his day, his advice also sustained the Jewish people during the nearly 2,000 years of Diaspora after the destruction and dismemberment of Israel at the end of the First Century.

Bloom where you are planted can also be excellent spiritual counsel for many of us.  We might be we in a job we aren’t particularly happy with.  Maybe our relationships are a little rocky right now.  Maybe Alabama was the last place we envisioned living.  And certainly with all of the dysfunction in Alabama government we might not expect much good will happen in the next few years.   Sometimes I can’t believe that the “know nothing” party has really returned.

SLIDE 9:

A FUTURE AND A HOPE

God says to us even in the midst of mess and despair, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  A future and a hope right here and now, where we are planted.   But if God has such wonderful hopes and plans for our future, why can’t we see them?

SLIDE 10:

PRAYER

Verses 12 and 13 give us a clue about opening ourselves to see and understand Gods hopes and plans for our future:  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.  The first step is prayer.  God cannot give us a vision, guidance, hope unless we are willing to open ourselves to God in prayer.  It’s a little bit like the guy who complained that God never did anything for him.  “God,” he complained, “why can’t you ever let me win the lottery?”

God finally answered back, “give me a break at least buy a ticket.”  If we want God’s guidance, if we want God to give us a vision of how to bloom, where we are planted, then we have to at least buy a ticket.  And the ticket is prayer.

SLIDE 11:

FRENETIC UNGUIDED BUSYNESS

We Christians talk a lot about prayer, but if my suspicion drawn from my own life is true, we don’t pray very much.  There are so many other things we consider to be so much more important.  We are busy doing.  But when our doing is not informed by prayer, we often find that our frenetic unguided busyness brings more harm than good.  Our lack of prayer is a kind of arrogant adolescent fantasy that we can really do it all by ourselves, because we are so wise.  It reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous quotation about his father:

When I was sixteen, my old man was the stupidest most ignorant creature, who had ever walked the face of the earth.  And by the time I was twenty-five I was surprised by how much he had learned in such as short time.

SLIDE 12:

GOD HAS LEARNED A GREAT DEAL IN A SHORT TIME

Some of us never seem to realize how much God has learned in such a short time, and so we never develop a prayer life.  If we really believed in God, who wouldn’t take time to pray?  Of course it takes practice listening before we can discern the voice of the divine.  God is never as plain as the nose on our face.

SLIDE 13:

DEEP LISTENING

We have to learn deep listening, if we want divine guidance, and sometimes we have to be willing to share what is happening in our prayer lives with others, so God can speak to us through good spiritual friends.  Often when our egos get in the way, God whispers into the ear of a spiritual friend, so we might still be able to hear, when we are blocking God’s voice.  God promises that when we pray, we will always be heard, but God cannot promise that we are always listening.

SLIDE 14:

SEEK ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART

Verse 13 contains another important piece of advice for those of us who want to find divine guidance:  “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.”  We must be whole hearted in our desire for divine guidance.  Half-hearted won’t do.  And judging by most of our prayer lives, our faith is pretty half-hearted.

SLIDE 15:

GOD DOES NOT DEPEND UPON OUR FAITHFULNESS

Fortunately, God does not depend upon our faithfulness.   As Matt Lany wrote in a recent still speaking devotional we can depend upon God’s faithfulness.

Even though we live by faith, we also view faithfulness as a tall order.   When we think of faithfulness we think of someone who is firm in his commitments, someone who is steadfast in her position, someone who is reliable and unfailingly consistent.   In other words, when we think of someone who is faithful, we think of someone other than ourselves.  Few people, in their right minds, believe they are shining, towering examples of faithfulness.   After all, we don’t sing: Great is MY faithfulness!

The Bible agrees.  The Bible is not a book to turn to if you want to find faithful human beings.  Turn to the Bible if you want to find a God who is faithful to us despite our consistently wavering faith in God.   Jesus said having faith the size of a mustard seed would be a huge accomplishment but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the human capacity for faithfulness.

SLIDE 16:

SACRED MASCULINE ENERGY
At the Sharing Table we were discussing Zara Renander’s book Labyrinths:  Journeys of Healing Stories of Grace and one of the questions was what are the sacred masculine and feminine energies in your life?  My sacred masculine energy comes from my father.  He survived a whole series of life accidents and continued to be purposeful throughout his life.  He was wounded during the War and was mustered out of the army, when he had planned to make a career in the military.  He went back to school and began a career in education.  He was working with some colleagues on a research project, and he was wounded in a hunting accident – shot in the face.  His colleagues went ahead and published without him.  Due to the hunting accident he lost the sight in one eye, and he was unable to keep up with the reading in his field.  So, unable to excel academically Dad turned his attention to mentoring students and other faculty members.  When he was the chairman of the faculty athletic committee the University of Omaha won the national small college championship in football and wrestling.  From his example I learned that if we are alive we have a purpose – bloom where you are planted.

SLIDE 17:

BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED

We all have many purposes.  If we have faith even the size of a grain of mustard seed, God can empower us to be instruments of God’s love and peace.  Pray, listen, seek God with all of your heart you will bloom where you are planted.

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