A month before the presidential election, you may feel that the world is too crazy and uncertain to even consider something so old-fashioned as a commitment to the church. I believe that this is exactly the time to demonstrate that we trust in someone (God) and something (the church) that will be around much longer than any president.
When Jerusalem was under siege by enemy armies in 587 BCE, everyone knew they were about to lose. So the economy collapsed. Bread prices went through the roof, and property values fell through the floor. When an enemy army is about to overrun us and take us all away to Babylon, what’s the point in any long-term investment?
I arrived in Albion a little over seven years ago, and I heard all about the things that were gone: the foundries, the shops, the restaurants, and of course the property values. It was 2009, and we were only a year out from the worst national economic crisis since 1929. There was plenty of uncertainty going around. In 2016, we can honestly say that Albion survived, America survived, and our church survived as well. Things are not what they were thirty years ago, but things have been worse. We still have plenty of reasons to be hopeful.
In the midst of the siege of Jerusalem, a prophet named Jeremiah received a message from God, in two parts: 1) Jerusalem is going to lose this war, and 2) Buy land (Jeremiah 32). The first part is the short-term reality. Things really are as bad as they look, and maybe worse. But the second part of God’s message is a promise that in the long term, there is hope. It’s worth investing for the long term, because in the future, people and life will return to Jerusalem. Hearing this message from God, Jeremiah did what we would do: he questioned God’s sanity. And God answered (in many more words): I will restore Israel and Jerusalem, so buy the land. Jeremiah did buy a vineyard, and had his friend Baruch bury the deed in the ground.
Seventy years later, when Jeremiah was long buried, the people did come back and rebuild Jerusalem. It’s still there, despite repeated destruction over the centuries. For 180 years, our church has been here, an anchor to the whole community through thick and thin. We’re not buying land; we are staying right where we are, and investing in ministry to the whole community in new and creative ways.