October 7 Post
We’re living in exile and we don’t like it. It’s not the first time of course. We’ve been exiled from life as we’ve known it by many circumstances. Perhaps we’ve experienced a season of suffering when an illness kept us from activities we enjoy, or plans we’ve made slipped away from us due to circumstances beyond our control. We remember those times of disappointment, disillusionment or frustration, seasons that tested our faith.
This exile is different from that. We’re all in exile together from a rhythm and pattern of life we may have enjoyed, and which is no longer available to us. Most of us braved through the spring, maybe even enjoying a less frenzied schedule in our self-imposed quarantines. Summer sent us outdoors and when possible, to carefully orchestrated family gatherings or socially distanced meetings with friends outdoors. By now, many of us have grown weary of it and want to move on. Only we can’t.
The only real difference between our exile now, and when our world shut down last February or March, is that there are exponentially more people infected, and therefore greater risk. Many states re-opened for business, some with safety protocols, and some not. So we venture temporarily out of exile, only to retreat to the refugee camp of home, which though pleasant enough, grows lonelier over time.
We’re not the first people to endure such a season. The Babylonians arrived to capture and take exiles from Jerusalem six hundred years before Jesus was born. The prophet Jeremiah helped them understand how to endure such a difficult season by encouraging them to live into the moment. “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…Seek the welfare of the city where you have been exiled, and pray to the Lord on its behalf.”
When I once faced a moment of discouragement, temporarily cut off from my family by circumstances beyond my control, a wise friend encouraged me with these words. “Trust God, live in this moment, and all shall be well.” Like the prophet Jeremiah, my friend keenly understood that this isn’t just some long, boring year when we wait for everything to get back to normal. This season of exile may be the very occasion for the renewal of our faith, the revitalization of our purpose, and the redemption of all things that need to be forgiven and released in order for us to move forward.
Prayer: Almighty God, giver of every gift, who uses all things for good, open my heart to the gifts of this uninvited exile. Strengthen my faith in this season, that I might live each moment with gratitude. Help me to trust that by your grace, all manner of things shall be well, though I cannot see it from here. Amen
God’s grace, mercy and peace,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
Interim Senior Minister
Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida