“New Roots” by Lauren Wright Pittman | A Sanctified Art LLC | sanctifiedart.org
Weekly Bible Devotional
“Unraveled: When Dreams Unravel”
July 12, 2020
When our visions and dreams unravel, we are guided by the Spirit of God to adapt and to change so that new dreams and visions continue to emerge. This is the message the prophet Jeremiah gave to his people when their dreams unraveled. Throughout the Bible, we hear God’s messengers saying the same thing: “Do not be afraid!” No matter what the circumstances of your life might be, stay focused on love instead of fear.
Jeremiah invited his people in exile to love their neighbors and their new country. This was the last thing they would have wanted to do. These people were their enemies and the situation they found themselves in seemed unbearable. Yet, they needed to love their neighbors (especially the ones they didn’t like) and to adapt to their new life. The choice they had was to choose hope and love instead of anger and hate.
The same choice is before us today. As we find ourselves in this new territory, we can choose hope and love. We are learning to navigate the new normal. We are continuing to love, worship, connect, and serve in new ways. We are not always comfortable doing this, but we are finding our way through the grace of God.
The reflections below are from the Unraveled Series by “A Sanctified Art.” I hope that you will find them helpful to you on your journey of faith, especially during this time of the unraveling of many of our dreams and expectations.
Scripture for Sunday: Jeremiah 29:1-7
The Israelites called Jerusalem home because they believed God lived in Jerusalem. Yet, the Babylonian exile robs them not just of their home, but their identity, their welfare, and their perceived proximity to God. The prophet Jeremiah delivers a startling message to those in Babylon-to settle in, build homes, and plant gardens in that foreign land. What does this mean for those in exile? Where does God dwell when we are uprooted? What does God-what does Love-say when our dreams unravel?
What Has Unraveled and/or Is Unraveling?
o The dream those in Babylon had constructed for when they would return home unravels.
o Because of exile, Jerusalem has unraveled and so has the identity of the Israelites.
o The harsh reality of exile unravels into a vision with possibility.
o Consider Jeremiah’s warnings in Jer. 27:16-17 and Jer. 29:8-9. How do Jeremiah’s concerns for false prophets inform your reading of this passage? Why do you imagine God delivers this message through Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon?
o What dreams need to die in order for communities to prosper?
o Where do you see social exile occurring in your own city? What communities have been uprooted, disempowered, and marginalized? What does it look like to garden-literally and metaphorically-in these spaces?
Quote for Inspiration:
“Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly. They stand adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of the community. . . . The bright day of Christian community dawns wherever the early morning mists of dreamy visions are lifting.”
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together: Prayerbook of the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol.
From the artist // Lauren Wright Pittman:
I moved to a new state. As I write, I’m living out of boxes, the trunk of my car, and a storage unit. It’s a jarring experience to move, even when it’s a conscious choice. I’ve found myself in a place that resembles almost nothing like what I’d envisioned for my life. I left a city burgeoning with opportunities and culture; now I’m in a small town where I’d be thrilled to find one decent, local coffee shop. I’m beginning to realize visions about the future I wasn’t even aware of. These unrealized dreams took root in my being in a way that feels defining to who I am. Something happens deep in our core when we feel out of place. The day I moved my immune system failed and I became sick and disoriented. The Israelites were forced into exile, ripped from their homes, places of worship, and way of life. They find themselves in Babylon where they dream of the day they’d return to where they belong. Jeremiah’s words are comforting, yet painful. They are told to stay, plant gardens, and allow their families to flourish in this strange land. I’m sure this was disappointing, but when you hold onto the past, you miss the richness of the present. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you” (Jer. 29:7). Maybe when our lives unravel in transition, the loose ends of our dreams, the friends we leave behind, and the paths untraveled can become the roots that stabilize us in the new place where we find ourselves. These threads can create grounding that nourishes and transforms us into something new. This new place can be a gift-a place of flourishing and a conduit for deep, authentic connection with self and community.
Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement, shape, form. Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you overlook? Now engage your imagination. What story do you imagine for each of the figures? reflect – What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story? – What kinds of dreams need to die in order for your community to prosper? – Where do you see social exile occurring in your own city? What communities have been uprooted, disempowered, and marginalized? What does it look like to garden-literally and metaphorically- in these spaces?
Theologian Walter Brueggemann writes, “The Book of Exodus records the contest between the liturgy of generosity and the myth of scarcity-a contest that still tears us apart today.” In the space below, confess the ways you fall for the myth of scarcity-in your finances, time, energy, relationships, work, etc. Then, imagine tangible ways to live out a liturgy of abundance in all aspects of your life.
Soften my hardened heart and unravel me from living a life led by scarcity. Amen.