Free Resource: Hope in Exile (Cross+Gen Worship)
Unit Theme (November 12 – November 26): Promises of Hope
This week in the Narrative Lectionary, we continue our brief journey through the Prophets, moving from the pre-exile Isaiah to Jeremiah, writing to the people exiled to Babylon. This is also the week of Thanksgiving in the United States and the festival of Christ the King.
Hope from Despair
The people in Babylon probably felt confusion and despair. Did exile destroy their covenantal relationship with the LORD? What does it mean that they were far from their land and their temple destroyed? Did their defeat mean that the gods of the Babylonians defeated their God?
Jeremiah asserts that God sent the people into exile (Jeremiah 29:14), and God will rescue them again. There will be a new Exodus, this time out of Babylon, rather than Egypt. However, that won’t be for a long time. God wants the people to settle in, to multiply and seek peace (NRSV “welfare”) rather than violent revolt. Jeremiah’s message is to give the people hope, both for tomorrow and for the future to come. God has plans for the community of Israel, plans of peace and hope that God will fulfill.
God planned a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11) for the people in exile, and God promised to return them to their land. This promise came to fruition when Cyrus, the king of the Persian Empire, conquered Babylon and gave permission for the exiles to return home. However, the promise does not end there with a temporary peace and a limited hope. The promise extends to the time when God will repair the world, and God’s kingdom of peace will replace all earthly kingdoms. Blessedly, Jesus, the true King of all, has extended that promise to the entire world.
Hope in Our Exile
Connect this reading to modern life in worship or any other faith formation context better than just personalizing Jeremiah 29:11. We may not often refer to it as such, but exile is sadly common today. Sometimes it’s physical exile. Refugees flee oppression and violence in their home countries. LGBT youth are rejected by their families and made homeless because of who they are. Many live in an emotional or social exile due to sickness, failing health, anxiety, depression, or other health concerns or life events. Even kids can understand physical exile, as well as relating to feeling alone, excluded, or separate.
Exile can be a time of darkness. However, we can live into the promises of hope and work for the welfare of our communities, giving hope to those who have none. This is what our free activity this week, “Hope in Exile” does. In it, partners act out these promises and work together and then pray for each other. Additionally, these partners can send messages of hope to others by making cards which leaders can send to those in need of hope.
This activity was created for our Living the Word: Cross+Generational Worship guides, but you can use it not only in worship, but in many other contexts as well.
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
How are you planning to address this reading in your faith formation context?
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
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