- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Brett Fuller at Grace Covenant Church in Herndon.
In Jeremiah 29:4-7, we read, "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare, you will have welfare."
I think it was John F. Kennedy who said Washington, D.C., was known for its Southern efficiency and its Northern hospitality. I grew up in Kansas. I really love Kansas. I came out here in 1982 to start this church. I didn't know what the East Coast was like. But I can remember driving on the highways around Washington and thinking, "Oh God, take me back to Kansas, please."
I was praying and hoping God would send me back to Kansas. I said, "Please allow me to reach people who are nicer." For 15 years, people would ask me where I was from and I'd say, "Kansas."
It wasn't until God started laying into my soul: "You ain't going back. This is home for you." It wasn't an imprisonment. It was a calling. It wasn't because I was so attached to a group of people. It was because the city had grown to be affectionate in my heart. I wanted to benefit these people to whom I was sent.
The people Jeremiah was speaking to were in exile. Jerusalem was home. Everything in them wanted to get back. "We're not supposed to be in Babylon. Babylon is a foreign city. They have foreign gods. We cannot worship on our holy Mount Zion. It's even hard to find kosher food here."
Jeremiah said this: "Plant vineyards. Get married. Have babies. Let those babies get married. Seek the welfare of the city which you considered an enemy for so long. You thought I did not care about Babylon. I want you to seek its welfare, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare. Pray for this city, not for judgment, but pray to Me on its behalf. And I'll help it to be home for you." If anyone would have a greater call to leave, it would be them. And God told them to stay.
God desperately wants you to be committed to this city. Now, Washington is the place that everybody uses to get what they want and go someplace else. You've used this as the Atlanta of your occupational life. Atlanta is where all the flights have got to go. It's the connecting city to where people want to be. It's the hub where people can get their next flight out.
You've got someplace where you want to retire and die. But it is not here. Let me tell you what that does. It makes you a renter, not an owner. So when bad stuff happens in our community, you never take responsibility. Case in point: the last three weeks. You know what I am grateful about? That God answered our prayers.
We prayed along with the whole body of Christ around this nation: "God, have mercy. Lord, catch this guy. Help the police to get clues. Help him to make a mistake. Help him to fall into the pit which he's dug for others. Help him to get so proud and so confident that he blows it." We know we can't take credit for what happened, but we participated. And it happened just like we asked.
There's hope for this community if God answered our prayer. He's really concerned for the welfare of this city. There's hope for the redemption of this place. Now, when you're a renter, when stuff happens, it's not your problem. You just hope it doesn't come your way.
Is this city yours? Is it really yours? Do you feel pain when someone dies a violent death in this city? Do you feel the pain of a lack of integrity in our government system? Or are you saying that as long as it doesn't affect your world, you're just going to go on and pretend it's not your problem or your job to fix. What are you doing while you live here? Are you just treading water until you go someplace else? Do something. Make it home. Don't act as though this is a connecting city to someplace else.
Next week: the McCarthy Lecture by the Rev. Walter J. Burghardt of the Woodstock Theological Center.

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