The Mission Beyond Home

There was once a young girl who survived a tornado.  Her name is a pun: Dorothy GALE.  After the storm ended, she emerged from her house in a new and fantastic land called Oz.  Her words have become the symbol for being in a new place: "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Leaving home can be exciting, but it's also risky.  This was especially true in the ancient world.  So what would have given a handful of religious sages (i.e. "magi" or "wise men") incentive to take a 3-month journey far from home to see a baby in a small Jewish town?

The magi we read about in Matthew 2:1-12 could have certainly been aware of the Jews, since the Jews had lived in the "east" since the Babylonian exile 500 years earlier.  They appear to have given some credence to Jewish teaching as well, since the star signified to them not just the arrival of any king, but of a Jewish king, whom they believed to be important enough to visit, far from their home.  They bear witness to the fact that Jesus takes God's mission beyond "home" and calls us to follow him.

1) God's mission is already beyond our home.  In other words, God goes before us.  Into our personal timelines, for example, God goes ahead of us and prepares things we will need long before we have "arrived" there in time.  God also goes ahead of us physically, being present with people who live far from us, and whom we have not yet met.  This was certainly the case for the magi.  God's action in advance of us reminds us that God is in charge, and we are not.  At the same time, God is in charge and calls us to join in.  When we have arrived where God already is, we must be ready to join God's work.

2) God's mission comes to our home.  The entire biblical narrative is one of God drawing near to humankind, and humans pushing God away.  Consider Genesis 3:8-13.  The first three things God says in response to the people's sin were NOT accusations.  They were questions: Where are you?  Who told you?  What have you done?  At Christmas, God finally drew near in a way people could no longer deny or avoid -- as one of us.  Pippa Gumbel tells the story of Penny and Anna: Penny was praying for Anna at an Alpha weekend and began praying in another language.  "Your speaking Russian!" Anna exclaimed.  Penny didn't know Russian, so she asked, "Well what am I saying?"  
"You're saying, 'My dear child, my dear child.'"  Pippa remarked that that was exactly what Anna needed to hear.  But to hear it in a language she spoke and loved gave it the personal impact that God wants us all to experience.  

3) God's mission may call us beyond our home.  Some people may be called to physically move away from their home.  Some are called overseas, while others are called across the state, or even across town.  I heard recently of a family who, after a great deal of prayer and discernment, moved to the glistening metropolis of ... Forsythe, Missouri.  Okay.  Bethlehem wasn't much to write home about, either, but that is the place to which God called the magi to go.  But sometimes, God's call away from "home" is more about calling us to venture into unfamiliar contexts, without having to physically move where we live.  In any case, those who follow Christ should be prepared to expect the unexpected, and get comfortable being uncomfortable, if we are to be ready to answer whatever call he may give.  This is what it means to call Jesus "Lord."

Reflect:
- Have you ever traveled far from home?
- Have you ever lived far from home?
- Have you ever lived far from home in a way that was difficult for you?
- Have you ever said "yes" to what you believe was a prompting from God, which compelled you to embrace a new, unfamiliar, and perhaps even challenging context, i.e. "far from home"?

 

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