The history written about in the Book of Ezra may seem to be an odd story to write about when calling for a celebration of Thanksgiving and Peace. The Persian King, Cyrus had just conquered Babylon. He then ordered the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and to rebuild the House of the Lord to celebrate that the Lord God of Heaven had given King Cyrus all the kingdoms of the world.
To translate the story to our modern day understanding, a pagan King is fulfilling the promises of God to the Jews, His chosen people. The pagan King gives the Jews their country back. The Jewish people give thanks to God for the peace and beginning of prosperity He has given them.
In fact, 4Memphis’ mission statement from Jeremiah 29:7, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the City in which I have placed you,” is the answer God gave the Jews in captivity in Babylon when they asked Jeremiah when God was going to return them to Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s answer was “Not now, work for the peace and prosperity of where you live now, I will keep my promise to return you to Jerusalem when the 70 years of captivity are complete.” The Book of Ezra is the story of how God worked to return the Jews, protect the Jews and prosper the Jews in their return to Jerusalem.
Today the world is in captivity to a virus that has changed all of us. We all feel that we have no control over the simplest things that we have taken for granted for years, the purchase of toilet paper or the ability to go to the doctor. The virus has given us a shared experience which has drawn us closer to our neighbors but has led to a nation divided by the political class as they prey on our fears for their own political gains.
In my neighborhood, we have pulled our lawn chairs out and spent time together in ways we have never done before. The virus captivity has brought neighborhoods together and returned children to their homes giving parents the privilege of knowing and living with children that they love who are now young adults.
Just as Ezra wrote about the victorious homecoming of the Jews, we will celebrate the liberation from this virus. It is not here yet, but we are entering the season of celebrating Thanksgiving and Peace, and despite captivity we have a lot to be thankful for.
First, the virus death toll has been much less than first projected. Not to diminish the tremendous loss for the families that have been affected by death and in some cases lasting effects from damage caused by the virus, but just gratefulness that it has not been worse.
Secondly, the economy of the nation has held up despite our fears that it would not. There has been tremendous economic loss and pain for many in certain industries, such as the small restaurants and business owners whose life savings are at risk. As a small business owner, I am grateful that the broader economy is surprisingly resilient, because when we are soon released from captivity, we will be able to rebuild. Those who have stable jobs are in better financial shape than ever before because many have been able to refinance their homes and save money as they quarantine in their neighborhoods. This means good things for small business owners when we are released from captivity. REMEMBER TO SHOP LOCAL!!!
Finally, we should be thankful for the reminder of what is important: the health of family and closeness with our neighbors and friends. There is an old saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.” This virus shouts to us what we used to battle and fight for, is really “small stuff.”
Peace, the call of Jeremiah, “seek the peace” is almost as if peace should be a verb. It is an action we stand for it; it calls on each of us to change our attitude towards each other. Thankfulness is a positive attitude for our circumstances. Peace must be a positive attitude to those we don’t agree with or who have wronged us, “seek the peace.” It is a calling for each of us to work on our attitude towards others, and it is not dependent on the attitude others have towards us. We are in total control of our attitudes; we can’t control the attitudes of others. Love what God loves and try to love as God loves. Captivity has put us all in bondage, but it cannot dictate your attitude towards others - only you can do that!!!
Celebrate Thanksgiving and the Peace of Memphis.
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