The Lord proclaims:
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness.
As Israel searched for a place of rest,
the Lord appeared to them from a distance:
I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.
And so with unfailing love,
I have drawn you to myself. -Jeremiah 31:2,3
The first half of Jeremiah is lots of doom and gloom, warning and woe. The prophet is trying to call the people to do the right thing, to take care of the poor, to treat the immigrant fairly, to worship God alone in spirit and in actions. He begs, pleads, and cajoles, but the people do not heed his words. They are overtaken by a foreign army and forced into a time of exile. Once the people are away from all that is familiar to them, weeping and wondering what will become of them, Jeremiah’s tone changes.
Now that the worst has come, God still has not yet left them. Actually, Jeremiah proclaims, God is loving them with unending love and always calling them to closer relationship with God. How about that. We are never, ever out of reach of God’s care for us.
Recently a woman who has been living on the streets in downtown Odessa came by the church. I’ve known her for a while now. She’s been in and out of shelters since her husband died in her own personal exile. She’s been sober for three years now. Does God still love her, she wonders? And would I fill out paperwork from our public hospital to establish her as an Odessa resident so she can get financial aid to have a surgery she needs? I wrote the letter on shiny church letterhead and pressed it into her grimy hand. And softly said this verse, “God has loved you with a love that lasts forever.”
And you as well.