Out of Exile
The hymn writer Will Thompson wrote these familiar words:
Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me;
patient and loving, he's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home;
earnestly tenderly, Jesus is calling --
calling, "O Sinner, come home!"
I've been in church all my life, and so it would be difficult to describe my own faith journey in terms of exile. But, that may not be completely true. My journey has had its fits and starts and it has taken me in more than one direction. But where is home?
As a pastor I've discovered that more than a few people are living in exile. They're original starting point no longer provides a safe haven for faith. They're adrift, looking for fellow travelers. I've been taken by the phrases used by Diana Butler Bass -- nomad/spiritual tourist and pilgrim. There is a longing in our hearts for a place called home, but how do we get there?
I'm just getting started reading Diana's latest book: Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith (Harper-Collins, 2006). In it she speaks of the myriads of people turning to Mainline churches in search of home. She writes: "Their spiritual and personal quests had taken them away from their childhood faiths -- if they had any -- through periods of longing, questioning, and a sustained search to 'find home'" (p. 57). In the pages following this statement she speaks of those who find themselves exiles from their original faith homes -- knowing that they can never really return home. Thus, they must find a home elsewhere.
When the Babylonian exiles returned "home" they didn't return to the home they'd left, they came to a new place, and they began to create something new. Are we not called to do the same as we come out of exile?