It’s been a long year. And I know that most of you, like me, are fed up with just staring out of the windows with nowhere to go. I’m desperate to actually get out of the house and go somewhere – I don’t really care where, I just need a change of scenery.
So the latest song from Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors which came out a few weeks ago – I need to go somewhere. A song for our current times, and which very much resonated with me:
Still stuck in this house with a mind full of doubts
Tired of staring out the windows
Eating too much, drinking too much,
Tired of watching the grass grow
Channel two, channel three, back to channel two,
I’ve watched everything in my queue…
So put me on a train I don’t care where it’s going …
I need to go somewhere.
I suspect most of you haven’t heard of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – so if you want to hear the song I’ve put up a link to the video on our website. It’s a great song!
Put me on a train, I don’t care where it’s going – I need to go somewhere.
Life in general – not just during the pandemic of the last year – can feel a bit like that. Like Drew Holcomb we feel that we’re still stuck in this house with a mind full of doubts and we need to go somewhere. But we can’t get rid of the doubts and we don’t know where to go. Yet we know we can’t stay where we are even if we not sure where we want to end up.
The Christian life, of course, has often been likened to a journey. But while the journey may not always be clear where we are going, our destination, very much is!
“They do not belong to the world,” says Jesus as he prays to the Father.
We are on a journey. We may still be in the world but we are no longer of the world. We have embarked upon a journey that is taking us away from the home that we have had, and that is taking us toward our real home. We are travellers. “For there is no permanent city for us here on earth,” says the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, “we are looking for the city which is to come” Heb. 1314 GNB. Our true home is not here, it is with Jesus in the City of God. Like a holidaymaker excited at the prospect of reaching their holiday destination, as Christians it is the prospect of reaching our true home that excites us – or at least it should.
And unlike Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, our refrain can never be Put me on a train, I don’t care where it’s going – I need to go somewhere.
Because there’s only one place we should be going, and how we get there is so important! We need to care where our life’s journey, our Christian journey, is taking us.
And what happens in this journey that each and every Christian has to make has sometimes been compared to four place-related words – from and to, in and out. From, to, in, out.
Let’s think about each of those four words in turn.
Our first place word – From: when you become a Christian you come from the world. You leave behind the way life used to be. You are still in the world, but as Jesus puts it, no longer of it, no longer belonging to it because you now belong to the kingdom of Jesus.
Our second place word – To: having come from the world you are drawn to God and to the community of the church. The church community is now your new home. And Jesus prays to his Father that in this new home we may be one, as he and his Father are one. This is a supremely important aspect of our Christian life – we are in this together and we offer each other help and support, love and companionship, on our journey.
As the hymn Brother, sister, let me serve you puts it:
We are pilgrims on a journey,
fellow travellers on the road,
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
Our third place word – In: in this community of Jesus, the Church, each Christian finds if they will look for it and receive it the nurture that they need to grow and the gifts they need, the equipping, to carry out the will of Jesus for them and for the community. And I cannot stress too much how important this concept of community is. As Jesus has been at pains to make clear in our gospel readings from the last two weeks there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. “May they be one,” prayed Jesus. There may be times when Christians are called to do things in a solitary situation, but everything we do is as part of and on behalf of the Christian community which is the body of Christ in the world.
And our fourth place word – Out: strengthened by the Holy Spirit we go out into the world to spread the good news of Jesus, and to serve people in his name. This isn’t an optional extra. Going out into the world is something every Christian must do. Jesus prays, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” All of them, not just some of them.
So let me just recap. Four words – From, To, In, Out.
We come from the world though we are still a part of it. We are drawn to God and the community of the Church. In the Church community we grow and are equipped for service. We then go out into the world to serve and to witness.
It’s a kind of circular journey – as we go out in Jesus’ name into the world from which he has called us. And which we he calls us to see with his eyes. And if we miss a bit of the journey out, we get lost and cannot find our way home. And for me this circular journey calls to mind the famous words of T S Eliot from his poem Little Gidding:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
From … to … in … out
Jesus us calls us from the world to the Church to be in the Church so that we can go out into the world again. So that together we can at the last complete our journey to our final destination – the home prepared for us.