First Mennonite Church
October 18, 2015
Standing on the Edge
Text: Jeremiah 29:10-14
There are moments in life in which we come to stand on the edge of something. The journey up to that point had been familiar, but what lies ahead is completely unknown. Standing on the edge can be scary or exciting, depending what kind of edge we are standing on. The edge can be exciting for young people on the day of their wedding. Dreams of sharing life together as couple and dreams of endless possibilities can make their wedding day an exciting edge to stand on. For some, the edge could be entering into retirement. For them, wondering what to do with all the free time they will have makes standing on that edge exciting. Standing on the edge can also be scary. Take for instance someone who discovers has a serious illness. Is there a cure for what I have? What is the rate of survival for this kind of illness? Yet for others standing on the edge could be the death of a loved one. How will life continue without having him or her around? It’s standing on these kinds of scary edges of life when we long to know what the future holds for us. It is when we stand on these kinds of edge that we wish we are able to see beyond the present, even if a little glimpse. Not knowing what lies ahead in such kinds of edge can be terrifying.
Ten years ago, this month, my family and I came to one of those edges in our journey in life: we finally came to Paso Robles from Belize after a long process of getting our visas. We did not know much about Paso and everything and everyone was new to us. Although the original plan for my coming was to serve a three-year term, I am still here today. Our children are setting roots and are thriving here. But something I did not envision was becoming a naturalized citizen, which I am now. Here is my certificate of naturalization! I just got it this month and so did Lilian.
Standing on the edge can be scary or exciting and full of surprises. Standing on the edge can be a traumatic experience or can motivate us to face the challenges we have before us. Most of all, standing on the edge should move us to seek the face of him who holds the future in his hand, God.
The context of our passage was the year 597BC. The King Hezekiah and the people of Judah had been taken into captivity in Babylon. God had delivered his people into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. The people of Judah had come to the edge, the border line of a new and traumatic historical experience. Never had they lived outside their country. Never had they been held captive by a super power. But what was most troubling to them: why did God allowed this tragedy to happen? Why did Yahweh, the God of all the earth, allow his chosen people to be subjected, abused, and taken prisoners by a pagan foreign power? What had happened to the promises God had made to their ancestors of giving their descendant a land forever? Why did God allow his holy dwelling place to be desecrated and destroyed? Judah could not imagine what the future held for them. Yet, the reality as it was did not look promising at all. Judah had come to the edge of a life they had known and what laid ahead was a complete mystery.
It was on that edge that Judah was standing when God commissioned Jeremiah to write a letter to the elders, priests, prophets and all the people taken into captivity. God instructed his people to settle down, to build their homes, to plant vineyards, to give their children in marriage, and to pray for the wellbeing of the country into which they were forcefully taken. Jeremiah told the people that contrary to the false prophet who was telling them that in two years they were to return home (28:3, 11), God’s plan was to have them there for seventy years instead. Jeremiah warned the exile community to brace themselves for the long haul. Seventy years meant that the adult generation of those taken into exile will never see home again. Seventy years meant those who had refused to listen to the voice of God, will receive in full the punishment of their rebellion. But seventy years also meant that there is hope for the new generation to return to their homeland. It meant that a time will definitely come when God will intervene on their behalf once again. Salvation was coming although far but it was there in the horizon, because Yahweh is the God of all history, past, present and future.
When Judah was standing on the edge of that difficult moment God came to them. “I know the plans I have for you,” God assured the Judean people. “I have plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Standing on the edge can be a scary thing but just as Judah was not alone by this cliff, God is also by our side when stand by cliffs of life. God is capable not only to see beyond the cliff but also to guide us safely in our journey. His plan is to give us hope and a future. His plan is to carry us successfully to our destiny.
Let me ask you, my dear sister and brother, to the edge of what have you come? As a congregation, to what edge have we come to? I know we have a serious financial challenge before us. Our immediate surrounding in this situation do not look hopeful. We have few alternatives, humanly speaking, but let us hear the word of God today: 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.
How are we to respond to this promise? Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
When we are standing on whatever kind of edge, God wants to remind us that he is standing by our side. The Lord wants to assure us that when we do not know what the future holds for us that he does know. God has devised a good plan for us. It is a plan of wellbeing, a plan filled with hope. It is a plan that includes a bright future. But God also invites us to invoke his name, to pray and seek his face with all of our heart. When we do that, instead of seeing a bleak future, we will see the face of God. Instead of feeling helpless, we will find the Eben-ezer—the Lord is my helper.
My dear friends, you know where in the landscape of your life you are standing now. It could be that you are standing on the edge of something really exciting. Give praises to God for leading you to that place. But if you are standing on the edge of a place where what lies ahead is difficult to fathom or simply unsure of what to expect, please know that the Lord holds the future of your life. You are not alone. The apostle Peter reminds us that we are aliens and exiles in this world (1Peter 2:11). Peter reminds us that our homeland is not here.
Today, the word of God invites us to trust God, to seek his face, to call on his name and to be reminded that God has a perfect plan for each of us. Amen