Summary: When we welcome Jesus into our lives we find ourselves at home as children in his household. This is the fuller fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy.
If someone were to ask you where HOME is, what would you tell them? If you are not living there now, do you ever go back? Why or why not? [Carry on group discussion.]
When I was 19 my parents moved to Tempe from San Jose -- where I had spent all but perhaps three months of my life. In my mind, to the degree I had given it any serious thought, I had always envisioned home as somewhere in Northern California. And in a sense that is home -- I grew up there -- it left an imprint on my life -- but hardly any of my people live in San Jose anymore. I have very few friends there.
We’ve bounced around a bit over the years -- Chicago, Washington State -- which we enjoyed -- but it wasn’t home.
Texas for six years -- which was more adventure than home. Then back to California -- Turlock for 11 years -- a place where we felt very much at home.
Then Guam for three years -- another adventure -- comfortable enough - people were friendly -- but it was not exactly home. As a mainland American, even though people were friendly, it was obvious that we were foreigners. And our extended family was all far away -- even phone calls were difficult because of the time zone difference of 17 hours.
When it came time to leave Guam the question was -- where to? We had no place.
We tried several different options but Arizona, by that point had become more home than anywhere else. I’d lived here for about four years in my 20’s -- liked the weather nine months of the year -- and learned to tolerate the other three. It was the default -- the preferred place to be if none of the other doors were open.
We figured that we’d eventually move to Arizona. The only question was a matter of timing.
You see, when we lived elsewhere we kept coming back to Arizona. Cheryl’s parents had retired to Green Valley south of Tucson and my parents and brother were here in Phoenix.
Home in a sense is to where you return -- perhaps literally or mentally -- certainly relationally.
And this is why the prophet’s message in Jeremiah 31 is so powerful -- and so hopeful.
Akim wasn’t just homesick -- he, along with everyone else he knew, was DESPERATELY homesick. It had been years since he and everyone in Judah had been kidnapped in mass and dragged off to Babylon. That’s about 700 marching miles -- and a gazillion cultural miles away.
Now, it’s true that things were not perfect back in the homeland. There was injustice and suffering -- especially if you were poor. The rich kept getting richer at the expense of the poor -- one of the reasons that God allwoed the Babylonians to exile them. But it was home.
And he missed the olive groves and vineyards which graced the hillside of his childhood village. And the Temple -- the glorious center of life itself -- nothing but a memory -- fading at that.
Hadn’t God promised that land to them? An inheritance forever?
Sometimes Akim and his friends would gather for a pint and psalm of lament.
Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept
as we thought of Jerusalem.
We put away our harps,
hanging them on the branches of poplar trees.
For our captors demanded a song from us.
Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn:
“Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
But how can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a pagan land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget how to play the harp.
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I fail to remember you,
if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.
But then at one such homesick session, just as everyone was pretty plastered and about as blue as they could be, somebody pulled out a scroll, with a transcript of a speech by that crazy doom-and-gloom prophet Jeremiah. And perhaps if the words had come from anyone else they wouldn’t have been as credible. For he was no Pollyanna.
Now this is what the Lord says:
“Sing with joy for Israel.
Shout for the greatest of nations!
Shout out with praise and joy:
‘Save your people, O Lord,
the remnant of Israel!’
For I will bring them from the north
and from the distant corners of the earth.
I will not forget the blind and lame,
the expectant mothers and women in labor.
A great company will return!”
Even the weakest and most vulnerable will make the journey.
“Tears of joy will stream down their faces,