Paying Attention: Investing in Your Future Jeremiah 32-1-3a; 6-15

September 16, 2008 deputy governor of the Bank of England, Charles Bean, described this recent economic downturn in apocalyptic terms saying: “This is a once in a lifetime crisis, and possibly the largest financial crisis of its kind in human history.  Then a year later, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said: “The worst recession since the 1930s is probably over.”  Then on Friday, Chairman Bernanke said: “With respect to longer-run prospects, my own view is more optimistic.  The growth fundamentals of the United States do not appear to have been permanently altered by the shocks of the past four years.”  Hmmm?

He illustrates human beings capacity to lap up good news and their equal capacity to filter out bad news.  When the market goes up on any given day; I read the business section and check on retirement funds.  If the market hits the skids, I’ll just wait it out for awhile until I can get some good news again.  This is about denial and we all have a great capacity for it.

As a market analyst, Jeremiah is a contrarian.  When the fortunes of Judah seemed glowing, he predicted gloom.  Jeremiah said the economy will fail and Judah will be overrun by a foreign power.  The year was 588 B.C. Jeremiah had been pronouncing woe on the southern kingdom for over a decade.  He knew sooner or later, faith in political power, rather than spiritual power would come home to roost.  This went over like a lead balloon, no one really believes a contrarian analyst anyway.

The unfortunate result of denial is things can turn so bad, while in denial, it becomes too late to do anything.  By the time of Jeremiah 32, it was too late.  King Zedekiah placed Jeremiah under house arrest to shut him up, which never works; truth will always tell itself.  Judah was experiencing what Jeremiah predicted.  Homeland security failed, the insurgents were camped on the doorstep and the siege of the city would soon be complete.  Nothing would be left behind, no houses, fields, or vineyards, except those who were of not threat to these foreign invaders.

In the midst of hopelessness, God intrudes to assure the nation that God isn’t giving up.  God tells Jeremiah to make a foolish investment in the future of his people by purchasing a piece of land.  Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, wants to unload family property in nearby Anathoth.  The army of the great unwashed, Nebuchadnezzar’s garrison is camped there; destroying the grasslands and crops.  This insures the land will not be worth a dime on the dollar.  Cousin Hanamel goes to Jeremiah; knowing Hebrew law would allow next of kin to maintain the privilege of possession or right of redemption.  The law says no one owns the property except God, but the privilege of use can be passed to a family member; in order to keep it in the family.  Jeremiah buys it.

Jeremiah has never been accused of being in his right mind.  As he is regaining his reputation as earlier forecasts were now being confirmed; he does something economically dumbfounding.  He buys the land, pays top dollar, and declares it a good deal.  Standing there in chains he asks the scales be brought to the courtyard; the guards and bystanders must have been having a good laugh.  He weighs the seventeen shekels, signs two papyrus copies of the deed, his secretary seals them in an earthenware jar, to be preserved for generations to come.

This scene becomes a witness to God promises for the future.  Though the world didn’t value their houses and vineyards; God values them.  They’re disciplined; but not being written off.  Jeremiah demonstrates trust in God’s promises by publicly making this investment.  During the next seventy years, when it seemed hope was lost; they would recall the warbler of woe words: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.  God will not let Israel go through judgment without hope; they will return home one day.  In the same way, Jeremiah had privilege of possession on the land; God has the privilege of possession over the people.  God has the right of redemption and fully intends to exercise it.

This story of Jeremiah buying the family farm as a symbol of hope disturbs me.  Would I have enough faith to publicly invest in something all else gave up on?  You know something about this kind of faith investment.  Building and paying for this sanctuary over this last decade is such an investment.  You have built a wonderful mission base, which stands tall over our city.  Then when much begin to change, you remained committed to this mission base.  A mission bases are built to launch us into our mission field.

At this moment in our history, you, the people; and I, the pastor, have been joined together to serve God and our neighbors.  I prayed like never before ahead of stepping into this ministry.  God pressed on my heart to invite each person to ask and answer –What God is calling each of us to do in the next three to five years.  I felt compelled because I knew it would turn us to our mission field.  God’s call always turns us to our neighbors.  My understanding of FUMC’s journey is we have invested into the necessity of building this mission base.  At the same time, you have also invested yourselves as much as possible serving this community.  Is it time to be more focused on our mission field over the next decade?

You sacrificed your tightly budgeted time and hard-earned money to invest into building this wonderful sanctuary.  Now is it time to invest in building up the people who have not yet come?  You invested in a place which you may only benefit for a short time.  Now is it time to invest in people you may never know as well as you know each other.  You have faced obstacles and believed what lay ahead was not impossible, but achievable.  Now is time to overcome the challenges of making new places for new people.  We can invest in our future; believing others equally deserves the right to experience this community of faith, which has blessed so many other generations.  This place is worth investing ourselves.

Choose to invest in a future, which believes you can hear the voices of noisy children and crying babies replacing the hollow echoes heard now in Son Rise Village and in our nursery.  Choose to invest into a future of small discipleship opportunities, which can fill these empty classrooms.  Choose to invest into a future that may not be familiar, but might save the soul of a person you do not know.  God can fill this sanctuary, classrooms, and halls with sounds of a growing body if we are willing to make an investment into the future for the sake of others by answering the call of God in our lives.

I’ve been a benefactor of someone investing in my future.  I can recall a moment of hopelessness, and someone believed in me and invested in me.  When everyone else walked out, this person walked in.  That kind of investment into an unknown future almost always come from someone who has heard and is responding to the call of God in their life.

When God hatched the plan to invest it all in a sinful humanity by sending the only begotten Son, I think the angels must have whispered under their wings, “Has God gone bananas?  God may have lost God’s mind, but God hasn’t lost God’s heart.  Jesus going to the cross is the same kind of investment into the future as Jeremiah’s real estate deal.  Both say, just as a down market can turn upward in a moment’s notice on the good word of a good man, so can our life and this church turn upward on the good word of a good God.  It may take awhile to notice the change in our value, but when it does, it will be because God has paid the highest price possible for our future.  May we act as our God did and invest into our future in the name of a God who has been investing into the future of every generation.

Let this video help you think about your own commitment to what God is calling you to do or be in the next 3-5 years.

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