We find, in Jeremiah 29:1,4-7, Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem. It was a desolate city. The Babylonians were victorious. The leaders of Jerusalem had been deported. Jeremiah heard from the deportees about the prophet messages given them. Popular prophets tell them the return is imminent. God will not desert them. They will not have to remain in this foreign land for long. Their salvation is near.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wrote a letter to his friends in exile. It does not affirm their wishes, but challenges them to live for their God in the midst of an ungodly circumstance. His message for them can be God’s message for us: “To keep the faith and share the faith.” Faith is not constructed on dreams. Life with God is built on understanding the circumstances in which we live.

Today, many churches are struggle with their settings and theology. A report told of a church located in a racially-changing neighborhood. There were hundreds of potential members of another ethnic heritage. The Anglo membership continued to dwindle to about 20 members. They were given the opportunity to establish a program to reach out to those around them, but they refused. They would not accept the assistance of others to build a church that ministered to their community. They unrealistically believed that something will change to enable them to be large again. They hesitated to treat people as they would like to be treated.

Faith cannot live in the past, only in the present. Faith is lived today, not yesterday. Faith can help us face our problems. Erma Bombeck has written many humorous books. A recent one, “I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow up, I Want to Go to Boise” grew out of experiences at a camp for children and young people battling cancer. Bert was 5. He loved to draw. One day a visitor asked, without proper thought, “Bert, do you want to be an artist when you grow up?’ Bert replied matter of fact, “I am an artist.”

Our present is the doorway to our future. It is through living tomorrow. If we cannot relate to God, serve God, love other persons where we are, it is not likely that we can do so in the future. A realistic understanding of where we are enables us to be faithful both today and tomorrow. One day on Fred Rogers’s TV show for children, Rogers read a letter from a little boy. The boy told about his new parents and how his “new dad has shown me that if I can take care of the present, I can take care of forever at the same time.” This letter touched the people in the audience and also Rogers.

Jeremiah wrote to his exiled friends that they should settle down to reality. Release was a long way off in the future. There is much to do today. There is life to be lived, persons to help, reality to be viewed. Do the best you can in your life!

J.B. Morris leads the Rock Hill United Methodist Church.