Few of us have been exiled to a foreign country, but we are surrounded by people who have. I previously lived in Minnesota, home to the largest Somali refugee population in the country. Somalis were forced from their homes by fighting between rival government factions, drought, and poverty. From camps in Kenya, the refugees were admitted to the United States and sent to Minnesota because of the wealth of settlement support there. Christian social service organizations welcomed the Somali refugees just as they had assisted Vietnamese and Hmong refugees in the past. They offered English language training, housing assistance, and friendship as the refugees adjusted to a climate that so differed from the monsoons and desert heat of Somalia.
Not everyone welcomed the refugees; no community is without racial prejudice and religious intolerance, and economic progress among Somali-Americans was slow and hard-won. In spite of continuing challenges, however, refugees found a place to begin life again. Children and their parents thrived, and new businesses prospered. Refugees pursued citizenship, and a Somali-American was elected to the state legislature. Bringing their culture and stories, their entrepreneurial spirit, and their dedication to their families, the refugees enriched the communities in which they lived across Minnesota.
Jeremiah speaks of God’s desire for exiles to flourish even in the most confusing and alien of circumstances. We, who have been sustained during times of exile and have been surprised by gifts of support when we were overwhelmed by pain or loneliness, are called to nurture others torn from their refuges of safety. God bids us to offer abundant hospitality even when that assistance is costly for us, even when it is unpopular or misunderstood. Our brothers and sisters ministered to us with God’s comfort when we lived in exile. Can we do less?
As you were with me, O God, when I dwelled in a lonely place, send me to those who need my presence. Amen.
Through Jeremiah, God sends a message to the people in exile: They are to seek good for the city of Babylon, their new home. God will bless the city and in doing so will bless God’s people. The psalmist encourages the people to praise God with songs recounting past challenges through which God’s powerful deeds have brought them. This can be encouragement for those currently experiencing difficulties. In Second Timothy, Paul encourages his protégé to endure suffering if necessary. In fact, Timothy should expect to experience resistance. Although the apostle is in chains, the word of God is powerful and can never be chained. The story in Luke reminds us of a basic truth: We should remember to show gratitude to God for answered prayers.
Read Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. When have you experienced physical or metaphorical exile? How has God helped you to thrive in your Babylon?
Read Psalm 66:1-12. Recall a time of division in your family or community of faith. How did God bring you individually and collectively to a spacious place?
Read 2 Timothy 2:8-15. How do you remember Christ in your actions toward others?
Read Luke 17:11-19. What boundaries keep you from full wellness that can be found in Jesus Christ?
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