Jeremiah 29- Jeremiah’s letter to the Exiles in Babylon
The context of this letter is that Jeremiah sent it after the first group of exiles left in 597. Later groups would leave Israel in 587 and 582 B.C.. Jeremiah’s exhorts the children of Israel to get married and to build homes in exile. This reading points us toward examining our congregation a little more closely. How aware are we of an immigrant presence in our churches. How do we reach out to these immigrants? As we enter into yet another election you can be sure that immigration in our country will be on the top list, Jeremiah has something to say to us. Rather than using the legalistic language of illegal aliens, Jeremiah invites us to see immigrants in a whole new way. Instead of subjecting people to a cost-benefit analysis, Jeremiah sees the immigrant as gift. Jeremiah sees the immigrant as someone destined to make their new society a better place, someone ordered by God in this oracle to contribute to their new society in a lasting way. If we keep Jeremiah’s perspective in mind, we can only see immigrants as a gift. In these troubled economic times, this is an important message to share with our congregations who are often tempted to lash out at immigrants. This is also a message that immigrants themselves also need to hear who may be worn down by constant negative depictions. These negative depictions are the opposite of how Scripture understands immigrants. The Chancellor of Germany Merkel will be stepping down as the leader of Germany because she dared to welcome over 1 million Syrians in Germany. What she did was to show compassion from a country that was only known for killing Jews and equally it was master stroke because amongst all those millions are doctors and scientist and entrepreneurs, in fact Germany economy has not weakened but strengthened. If we listen to Trump we would ignore the facts that America was built by immigrants, from the Slaves to the Irish and Mexicans and the creation of the automatic technology and putting a man into space would not have been possible without Germany immigrants to America. Contrary to popular stories that Europe takes most of the immigrants actually it is Africa; poor as she is, she opens her borders from North to Southern Africa. So Jeremiah was saying to the children of Israel you have many gifts put them to good use so that the cities that you live in will prosper as well. It is also an exhortation to the local inhabitants to welcome immigrants because they welfare is equally tied to our own welfare. Sociologists noted the revitalization of a number of cities across the world who have benefitted from immigrants. Johannesburg was largely built by immigrants, Durban indentured Indians built Durban Cities are transformed. Jeremiah’s letter offers a formula for transformation. Hope replaces despair as immigrants can get work and put down roots where they live rather than living in constant fear of deportation. Congregations may need to be reminded that v. 7 only makes sense if immigrants find a welcome in our society. People have emigrated since biblical times, and the Bible calls us to compassion and love in response to immigration. Our gospel raises up the ultimate outsider, a Samaritan leper, as hero. No one could be more hated than a Samaritan in Israel, yet Luke demonstrates that only the Samaritan demonstrates gratitude. Earlier in the gospel, only the Samaritan stopped to help the distressed victim. Both in biblical times and in our own time, the Bible points to how much immigrants have to offer. We all have members of our families that are living abroad or other countries and the pressure these face each day, deportation, loss of permit, loss of jobs, repatriation, these are realities of all immigrants across the world whatever colour or nationality. So Jeremiah is exhorting us to be aware of our neighbours those who are immigrants. As he says our welfare is equally tied to ours as well. Let us this day remember all those that are applying for permits to stay here in South Africa or those whom we might know battling for renewal or applying to be here or to stay abroad. Let us be a compassionate people for God says to the Children of Isreal, Exodus 22 says, Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Exodus 23:9: Do not oppress a foreign resident, since you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners; for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Jeremiah 22:3: This is what the LORD says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim of robbery from the hand of his oppressor. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Do not shed innocent blood in this place. Exodus 20:2: I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
My name is Barnabas Sibusiso Nqindi, rector of St Barnabas-Bluff. I enjoy a good debate and I love to see people grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ