Each year, I plan my sermons in February, in the mountains of New Mexico . I find that it is a helpful discipline to consider the broad sweep of the year, and to take a “bird’s eye view” of my work.


Of course, there are times when world events or specific situations dictate a change in the plan; but more often than not, the texts and messages planned in February take on a strange and unexpected relevance when Sunday comes.


          This became especially true when I returned from a summer Renewal Leave Sept. 11 of this year. The title I had planned was “There’s No Place Like Home.” That saying, of course, comes from Frank Baum’s classic, "The Wizard of Oz." You may remember that when it was time to go home to tornado-torn Kansas , all Dorothy had to do was click her ruby slippers together and say, “There’s no place like home.”


At that, she was instantly transported back to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and her little bed in the corner. All her adventures in Oz served the purpose of emphasizing just how good “home” is. It was the perfect happy ending.


          However, when Katrina unleashed her fury on the gulf coast, the saying took on entirely new dimensions. For all those who had been displaced … for all those who had lost their homes and everything in them … would that they could return to all that was familiar and beloved by a simple click of the heels and a magical incantation. It wasn’t that simple. Perhaps Thomas Wolfe was right after all: “You can’t go home again.”


          Even more amazing was the text I had chosen during my mountain retreat, from the 29th chapter of the prophet Jeremiah. Addressing his people, who had been driven into exile far away from their beloved Jerusalem , he says two things.


First, he says, even though you are far away from home, build houses, plant gardens, marry and give your children in marriage. Get about your lives. Seek the welfare of the city where you find yourselves, he says, for “in seeking the welfare of the city, you will find your own welfare.” 


Second, he says that one day God will hear their prayers and bring them home and restore their fortunes. It was a promise that was, at the time, hard to believe, but history shows that Jeremiah’s promise came true.


The two messages of an ancient prophet, as it turns out, are as contemporary as this morning’s newspaper. To all exiles … to all the displaced persons, far away from home, he says:


• Get about your lives. “Bloom where you are planted.”


• Seek the welfare of the city, for in it is your welfare.


• And, then, finally, God will, one day, bring you home.


          May it be true. And God bless all those for whom the message is sent.


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