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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Welfare


Once upon a time there was a very powerful king who invaded all the neighbouring kingdoms. This king was very clever. He realized there were many people living in those conquered city-states who had skills and talents that he could use to enrich life in his kingdom. Consequently he rounded up all the rulers and leaders, skilled trades people, priests, artists and artisans, and took them back to his capital city. He left behind the ordinary farmers and labourers, and a most extraordinarily troublesome man who claimed to speak for God. The intelligent king, of course, was Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and the troublesome prophet was Jeremiah. Probably the king reasoned that it would indeed be smart to leave this rabble-rousing poet behind!

Some time after this exile began, Jeremiah sent a most unusual letter to the captive people in Babylon. This message was not filled with his usual diatribe against wickedness and unfaithfulness. He did not say, “I told you so,” but rather, offered some advice that must have seem equally frustrating to the readers. “Build houses and make yourselves at home. Settle in. Plant gardens, you’ll still be there to eat what you grow. Find mates, get married and have children and even grandchildren; you are going to be there for a long time.” And then he said the most challenging and difficult thing of all. "Seek the welfare of the city where you live, and pray on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7) Pray for our captors? Seek blessings for them? Ouch!

One of the blessings of scripture, even the parts that seem challenging, is that reflecting upon it may allow truths to emerge that have direct application to our own lives. As different as our current circumstance are from those ancient, captive Israelites, somehow the words may speak with equal applicability. In this day of shrinking congregations, is it possible that our hope lies in the communities where we live? Does Jeremiah’s advice call to us with relevance across the past 2600 years?

“Seek the welfare of the city where you live, pray on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” What if our congregations did that? What if our work was for the benefit of our neighbourhoods? What if our ministers saw their stewardship as a ministry to the city, town or village where they live? What if we saw our true calling as being, not just to church members but to the people who live in the community where the church is? If the church were truly a blessing to the community, would the community not also bless the church? Isn't this worth our time to think about?

Of course Jeremiah’s words also find an echo in a modern prophecy, but perhaps that is a subject for another day. For those who are impatient, however, you might want to look at Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a.

May our days be blessed with opportunity for both reflection and action.

Posted by Carman

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