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The Church is On the Outside Looking In

We begin a new sermon series on Sunday! And I’m excited to share it with you, as it is a series that has been brewing in my heart and mind for quite some time.

Our primary text over the next several weeks will be Jeremiah 29, which is perhaps most famous for its promise, “For I know the plans I have for you.” But the whole of Jeremiah 29 is a letter from the prophet Jeremiah that speaks God’s message to the Israelite nation soon after they arrived in Babylon at the beginning of the exile.

Jeremiah’s words were probably the last thing they expected to hear from God, and, definitely, the last thing they wanted to hear from God.

In Babylon, the nation of Israel was the minority. Their faith and their values weren’t the norm. They were on the outside looking in. And Jeremiah’s letter speaks about what it means to be on the outside, looking into a world that is drastically different from what they had known. And his instructions are to settle down, to do good for the Babylonians, and to seek God.

It wouldn’t be easy, but the letter also speaks of hope. While the exile might have felt like the end, God promised that there was still more to come. God wasn’t done with the nation of Israel just yet.

The future would look different, but the promise was that God was still at work. God was still doing something in and through the nation of Israel.

I’ve found myself drawn back to these words from God over the last several years as we’ve experienced dramatic shifts in the culture, the Church, and the world.

It wasn’t that long ago when, for the first time in history, there were more people who identified as un-churched than who identified as churched. That means, for the first time in US history, belonging to a church is no longer consider the “norm.”

And that can feel terrifying. It can feel like all hope is lost. And we can feel like we don’t know what to do.

The Church is on the outside looking in. And I believe that Jeremiah’s letter continues to offer guidance for how we can be the Church in 2022, even when the entire landscape has shifted around us. And so, what does it mean for us to be on the outside looking in? How are we being called to be the Church today?

Even more importantly, I believe God’s promise remains, God isn’t done yet. Not only is there a future for the Church, but it is a good future. The Church is God’s plan A, and there isn’t a plan B. Just because the world is shifting around us, doesn’t mean that the story of the Church has ended. There is still more to come.

I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I think this is an important conversation for us to have. Throughout this series, you might hear some ideas that raise questions or make you uncomfortable. I invite you to bring those questions and conversations to me, let’s grab coffee, have lunch, or sit in my office. Let’s talk about it.

Because God still says to First Presbyterian Church of Lewistown, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

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