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Sunday 27 October 2024 Trinity 22 (Last after Trinity), Thirtieth in Ordinary time, Proper 25

It’s coming home

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Mark 10:46-52

By Val Ogden

Methodist Superintendent Minister Boston, Lincolnshire

Context: Sunday morning worship in a bustling market town; physically gathered congregation of incomers and Lincolnshire indigenous; sermon preached from a raised, central pulpit

Aim: to rejoice in restored fortune and the God who makes that possible

‘We still believe, we still believe, it’s coming home, it’s coming home. Football’s coming home!’ Ah yes, the anthem that’s sung lustily and optimistically by England fans at major internationals, even though fans remain glumly in a waiting game for the return of that elusive World Cup last won in 1966. There was the Women’s 2022 Euro victory though! Oh yes. We can still believe.

They’re coming home, they’re coming home, my people are coming home. Believe it! Thus says the Lord in Jeremiah chapter 31. The reader’s hopes were raised at the start of chapter 30, mind you. ‘For the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah … I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their ancestors, and they shall take possession of it’ (30:2-3). What a promise, and one worthy of some deeper reflection, beginning with a pertinent question:

What does this trophy of restored fortune look like for people who had, in some ways, been their own worst enemies, turning away from God’s ways and ending up in exile? Prophet Jeremiah’s earlier challenge to them couldn’t have been more cutting and to the point (2:17). ‘Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God while he led you in the way?’ Maybe so but, whatever the past has held, the future now beckons with enormous promise. God is all about reversing our fortunes and cheerleading us to amend our ways, even though on paper that’s beyond all our deserving. Here are some features of the glorious return.


It’s all tambourines, merrymaking and shouts of joy at the start of chapter 31, for even ‘the chief of the nations’ to hear (31:7). These chiefs are the big bosses of Assyria and Babylon, presumably. How satisfying this is, though it shouldn’t lead to gloating. Surely nothing is more thrilling and powerful than a captive being able to shout and sing in the hearing of their former captors? Remember Paul and friends singing hymns from their prison cell? The glorious return is a noisy and triumphant one, rightly so. Can we identify with wanting to burst into song when our fortunes have been restored, especially if we didn’t deserve it? How amazing to bubble over with the sheer glory of it all, forgiven, loved and free.


Scattered to the four corners, God’s people have known desperate isolation and fear. They’ve experienced the depressing ‘remnant factor’, feeling like discarded cast-offs in danger of losing their identity. In exile it’s all too easy to believe you’re forgotten. Ask those who find themselves ‘strangers in a strange land’ because they’ve fled oppression or are seeking asylum. Someone’s identity reduced to being merely a number on a faceless, migrant database; or in temporary accommodation where the landlord doesn’t even know their name. In Jeremiah 31, the Lord has not forgotten any of his people. No way. Whether located in the North, South or the furthest parts of the earth; God knows them, finds them, gathers them and reunites them. ‘I will lead them back’ is God’s personal declaration of commitment (31:9). No way will their homeward journey be outsourced or entrusted to someone else.


It certainly is. We’re told that the blind and the lame, those accompanying children and those with babies in the womb, will all make the journey, under the tender, loving care of their Parent God. One commentator marvels that the vulnerable are included and accommodated just as they are, even if they might slow down the journey a bit. They will be blessed with water for the journey and a straight pathway to follow, preventing those with additional needs from stumbling. They will be sustained every step of the way and possibly start leading the way for Israel and Judah now, just as Bartimaeus led the way for the disciples of Jesus in Jericho all those years later. ‘Blind’ Bartimaeus who screamed out loud, shrugged off his cloak, sprang up in faith and joyfully claimed his healing and restoration from Jesus. This is a bright and beautiful homecoming for Bartimaeus: an eye-opening entry and future journey into a new land of sight and insight.

What’s coming home for you and for me this week, through God’s restorative grace?


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