Bonus Content from June 30th

Sermon Questions from June 30th (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
The following questions were submitted following the June 30th sermon.
1)  Franklin Graham and many other pastors and people [are] praying for our president, congress, political leaders, and our country to cry out to God in repentance asking for mercy and revival for all. Did we do that on the Sunday in June?
We do pray for our president and other leaders from time to time from the stage during our Sunday morning services. You may remember elder Paul Bialek doing so recently. It’s important to us as a church that we do so regularly in our own lives (in accordance with not only this call in Jeremiah 29 but also New Testament injunctions like 1 Timothy 2), and we must continue to do so from time to time in our Sunday services. To answer your specific question, I don’t recall whether or not we did so on the day Franklin Graham prescribed.
2)   What concrete things should we do to pursue shalom here, in the place where we are exiled?
My hope is that as we preach through 1 Peter this Fall, we will spend much of our time exploring this very question! In one sense, a great deal of Peter’s letter is spent providing the sort of guidance for exiles that answers this question.
In a more specific sense, the answers to this question will necessarily be as varied as the people in our congregation, if for no other reason that those words “here, in the place where we are exiled” means something different for each of us. Working for shalom will look different for the executive taking the train into the city for work each day from how it will look for the stay-at-home parent, precisely because “here” is different! Beyond that, Wheeling is a very different town culturally than Highland Park (to use one example), so an action that helps bring shalom in one town may not have the same effect in another town.
In short, part of the work we must be trained to do as Christians is to learn our surroundings! The better we understand the places where we live, work, and play – what drives the people around us, what they fear, what they yearn for, what needs they have, etc. – the better we can bring shalom.
What should be said in response to this question from Jeremiah 29 specifically is that the idea of “shalom” includes every domain of life: economic flourishing, social flourishing, interpersonal flourishing, and (most importantly) spiritual flourishing. Wherever God has placed each of us, we do well to have our eyes open to the needs in each of those domains while keeping a priority on eternal needs.
3)   Aren’t we called to be “separate” from the world?
Yes, we are. In 2 Corinthians 6:17, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:11 to make the point that we ought to be separate from unbelievers. As discussed in the sermon, however, we can’t only examine scriptures calling for separation without also examining scriptures calling for us to participate in the life of the city. That’s why I suggested it’s best to constantly be asking ourselves the question: “In what ways should I be like my neighbors, and in what ways must I be distinct from them?” It’s not a question with easy answers – answering that question requires the Spirit’s guidance, consultation with the Word, and input from other believers. But it is one of the most important questions we can ask.
The example given in the sermon was that of Daniel and his friends. They are prime examples of the kind of “separateness” or “distinctness” we are called to! When it came time to eat the king’s meat, or to bow down to his statue, or to cease praying to YHWH, they drew lines in the sand and showed themselves to be separate. However, even these paragons of godly separation took Babylonian names, submitted to Babylonian education, and accepted jobs in the Babylonian bureaucracy.
In summary, there is a sense in which we are called to be separate from the world and a sense in which we are not. This is the tension in the commonly used summary of Jesus’s prayer in John 17: that we would be “in the world but not of the world.”