Dear Grace Covenant family,
I suspect more traditional American Evangelicals have at least one verse in Jeremiah 29 highlighted than in almost any other chapter in their bibles. (Obvious exceptions might be John 3 or Romans 8). Jeremiah 29.11 has long been a favorite of those who memorize scripture, in particular those who memorize God’s promises. Understandably so. It is a beautiful promise that God spoke to his people living in Exile about a day to come when they would be in exile no more.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
But what is often overlooked is the context in which the people were living when God gave them this promise.
Jeremiah 29.11 is a promise of their future. It is a vision; a peeking ahead to the end of the chapter in their story. It is pointing to the day when they would delivered from their exile. It is a reminder that despite living in a culture that does not operate with their set of values, and that does not value them as God’s people, that God had not forsaken them. It is designed to give them hope; and in that hope to have the assurance to be fortified to faithfully endure. But they were still in exile. They still lived in a culture that felt oddly, at the same time, both familiar and foreign (- not unlike Christians today living in a post-Christian society).
What is too often overlooked is what God says to his People about how they are to live in the context of their present circumstances, in which they are essentially “Resident Aliens”. That instruction is summarized in Jeremiah 29.7:
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
While frustration and fear may incline us to remove ourselves, as much as possible, from environments in which Christians may feel unappreciated, undervalued, and at times perhaps even despised, God’s intent is for his People – His Church – to live in, to engage, and to bless the communities in which we live. And if we read verses 4-6, which lead up to the summary instruction of verse 7, we see that God’s design is not only to be “spiritual blessing” to our community, but to be a blessing – to be of benefit, seeking the peace and prosperity of the community – in ordinary, even mundane, things.
One of my fervent prayers for Grace Covenant is that we will be such a blessing/benefit to Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle, and even to the whole of the Peninsula, as far as God enables us to be of influence. To be such vessels as God intends requires us, both as individuals and collectively, to be connected to God, to be growing in grace and faith, and to engage in areas where we have opportunity and interest. This is really just a more detailed illustration and expression of Jesus’ command that we love God and love our neighbors. (Mark 12.28-31)
Though we continue to be scattered due to COVID-19, we still have a variety of opportunities to engage and bless our neighbors.
1) As I mentioned in a note a few weeks ago, we will have an opportunity to participate in a Faith Build with Habitat for Humanity here in Williamsburg. A few of us from Grace Covenant – Jennifer Allen, Mark Begly, Heather Hicks, and I – had the privilege to participate in the Ground Breaking a couple weeks ago. In the coming weeks we will be giving more details about how you might be involved, should you be inclined to serve in this way. (If you have questions, please contact Jennifer Allen).
2) A second way to seek the welfare of our community is to be praying: Praying for our community. Praying for our Nation. Praying for the Nations. While there are many ways we can pray for our Nation, I learned this week that The Colson Center is hosting a weekly prayer time each Wednesday morning, beginning next Wednesday, August 12, thru November 4 (the day after the Election). For information, to sign up, or to participate, click: Colson Center National Prayer. (I will also look for other resources to assist us in praying for our country.) To encourage praying for the Nations, I’d like to share two apps I use regularly: Operation World and Joshua Project‘s Unreached Peoples of the Day. (I use these apps on my phone, but they are also available for laptops & pads.)
3) There is a third way I’d like to encourage we “seek the peace and prosperity” of our community. We received an email this week from James City County asking us to invite our church members to participate in the county’s upcoming engagement event, Exploring Our Future Alternatives, as part of the county’s Engage 2045 comprehensive plan. While this may not be of interest to everyone, it is a great opportunity for those who live in James City County to help shape the future of our community. (This seems the very essence of God’s instruction in Jeremiah 29.)
I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday – or one day soon! For convenience, I am including links to both August 9 Worship outline and the LiveStream, which are both, as always, also available in Grace Notes and on the Grace Covenant home page. I also ask you to join me in praying for Charley Bartelmay, our youth director. Charley will offer the message this Sunday. This is Charley’s first time in the pulpit, so no doubt he’s a bit nervous. No, you are not a scary congregation. Rather, as most ministers will tell you, there is something “awe-some” being behind the pulpit, and it can be quite intimidating. Charley has been working hard to prepare, but I am sure he would appreciate our prayers, as well.
Have a great weekend!
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor