This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” -Jeremiah 29:4-7
Where do you live? Is it a community, or just a group of houses in near proximity? Who are your neighbors? Do you know them by name? We lived in our house in Pasco for 14 months and I only ever met three of the neighbors. Now, to be fair, the space directly to the west of us is an empty lot and the place to the west of that house has been unfinished for the past 3 years, so there aren’t many neighbors to meet! But I have not been intentional about putting down roots in our current neighborhood. I did plant some trees, so there are physical roots there, but not emotional ones. The decision to look for a different house where we can really connect with our community and be intentional neighbors wasn’t difficult for us. Selling our house has been more challenging than I had hoped and we struggled with that decision and wondered if it truly was God’s plan and desire for us to move? In the end, we believe that yes, God has blessed this decision and we pray that any day now we will have our home under contract and continue to step forward in faith.
What do you do when you aren’t where you want to be? What does the Bible say about connecting with our community even if it’s a temporary one? This passage from Jeremiah 29 speaks well to God’s desire for us to invest in our community. Even though the people of Israel were exiled from their homeland, even though this was a punishment for their corporate disobedience, God instructs the people not to hold their breath and wait to live. They should build houses and settle down in the time of exile. They should get married and have children, and grandchildren. They should seek the peace and prosperity of the city of exile. Because when the city prospers, the people of Israel will also prosper. No matter where we find ourselves, God calls us to connect and invest in our community. That is the purpose and desire of our summer series: The Heart of Neighboring. We are guided by the book by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, “the Art of Neighboring: building genuine relationships right outside your door.”
The purpose of this study is not necessarily to bring more people into our church. That may happen as a result, but it is not the reason for using this tool. As a Spirit-led congregation, our focus is to equip our people to discern and act on God’s call to be caring, intentional neighbors. This series will challenge and encourage us to do just that. We will practice with small steps as well as big ones how we can be more caring and intentional in our neighborhood relationships. It starts right outside your front door. Every week in worship you will be challenged to meet your neighbors, invite someone over for a meal, forgive someone who has wronged you, and plan a neighborhood event to get to know and meet the needs of your neighbors. I encourage you to join us in worship and take those small weekly challenges to heart. What an impact we will have in our community if we take our faith to our neighborhood! I am excited to hear the stories of transformation and connection which will take place when we discern and act on God’s call to be caring, intentional neighbors!
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God Almighty, you give us homes and neighbors because you desire for us to share our lives and our faith with the people around us. Give us courage to meet someone new. Guide us by your Holy Spirit to know what to say. Help us to act on the gentle nudge you give to say a kind word or share a meal with our neighbors. Amen.