Chosen for Privilege?


Chosen for Privilege

Psalm 86

Supplication for Help against Enemies

A Prayer of David.

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,

for to you do I cry all day long.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;

listen to my cry of supplication.

In the day of my trouble I call on you,

for you will answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

and bow down before you, O Lord,

and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;

you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;

give me an undivided heart to revere your name.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,

and I will glorify your name forever.

For great is your steadfast love toward me;

you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the insolent rise up against me;

a band of ruffians seeks my life,

and they do not set you before them.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Turn to me and be gracious to me;

give your strength to your servant;

save the child of your serving girl.

Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,

because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. “

Hebrews 2:5-9

Exaltation through Abasement1

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?

You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,

subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Privilege is a dirty word, particularly in the fields of politics and culture. The 20th century in America provided a century of transition from government supported slavery to the claim of political, economic, and cultural power for those outside the category of wealthy, white male. We are also beginning to see other divisions beyond race and gender that influence our lives as well. Language barriers as well as geography play an important role as well. States which were once considered industrial powerhouses form part of what has been called the Rust Belt today which means privilege is reduced for everyone there. The debates continue over which things in life are rights and which are privileges.

Spiritually, we all share the privilege of being chosen by God to receive life and to receive grace. The fact that we have not earned either shows it to be a privilege. While our culture reels against the idea of being privileged by trying to point out any ways we have not been provided for compared to others, we all know someone who has it worse than us. So, rather than falsely denying our privilege, perhaps we should embrace it.

David was an expert in privilege because he had been on both sides of it. In a short period of time he had gone from neglected shepherd to military hero to being hunted by his own nation, seeking refuge in the courts of his enemies. When he finally became king, he recognized that his life had been spared on more ocassions than he could count. The author of Hebrews notes the privilege of being created human – that even the angels in heaven are not as privileged as us in God’s esteem.

What privileges do you enjoy thanks to God and others?

What responsibilities do you have as a result of those privileges?

  1. (Cp Ps 8:1–9)

Chosen by God


Chosen by God

Nehemiah 9:1-8

National Confession

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. Then those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors. They stood up in their place and read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth part of the day, and for another fourth they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the Lord their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

And Ezra said: “You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you. You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham; and you found his heart faithful before you, and made with him a covenant to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite; and you have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous.

Luke 6:12-19

Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles1

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus Teaches and Heals2

He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. “

There is a certain honor associated with being chosen. Some of us live for those moments. Others live in dread of them. Most of us are a mix of both, depending upon the situation. There are at least two different factors in determining our response to being chosen.

1. Who chooses us.

Being chosen creates and shapes a relationship between the Chooser and the Chosen. Standards and expectations are created – sometimes overnight. The 12 disciples may have had good impressions of Jesus, but I guarantee things changed the moment He called them out. Brides and grooms may have gotten to the point in life where they just want to be married and not alone anymore, but it makes an enormous difference who you marry, and, once you are officially wed, things usually change. Knowing (or not knowing) just who chose us matters.

2. What we are chosen for.

The “what” makes a big difference as well. We have very different responses to winning the lottery for $1 million and having your name drawn f. the military draft. It makes a difference in commitment as well. We can always refuse, but some callings involve a longer decision time than others. It is easier to be chosen to teach a bible study than to become a foreign missionary, for example. Yet sometimes, the greater the commitment the harder it is to refuse.

When we truly think about the truth that God, the creator of everything, chose us to be His servants, messengers, and adopted children, it is hard to refuse. The only way we can escape the call is to ignore it or at least claim ignorance. Any attempt to take God seriously is going to change our lives?

Who has chosen you?

What has God chosen you for?

  1. (Mt 10:1–4; Mk 3:13–19a)
  2. (Mt 4:23–25; Mk 1:35–39; Lk 4:44)

Chosen to Move


Chosen to Move

Genesis 25:7-11

The Death of Abraham

This is the length of Abraham’s life, one hundred seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with his wife Sarah. After the death of Abraham God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5

Chosen for Salvation

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Request for Prayer

Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

This week is packing week for many United Methodist pastors across the country. They will be moving to new churches in new communities and preaching their first sermons there in just under two weeks. We live each year through this season of anxiety or anticipation (depending upon how our current job is going) worried that this might be the year we get moved. When I feel overwhelmed by the concerns of moving I remind myself that there are many others, people in the military for example, who are often called to move much further and with far less notice than I get. Overall, it is not that bad at all. But I am still thankful that I am NOT packing boxes and moving this year.

Why do pastors move at all? Whether we are part of an itinerant system or receive a congregational call the fact is most pastors serve more than one church in their lifetime. The reasons are varied from seeking promotions, accepting calls to specific ministries or places, trying to move closer to family, conflict at work, better jobs for spouses… pretty much any reason anyone else ever changes jobs. Overall, Senior pastors tend to have smoother transitions than youth pastors, for example, who change every 18 months on average. Underneath the church traditions and policies though, I think there are 2 truths that guide this whole process.

1. We are created to move.

Abraham and Sarah were buried in land they had to purchase because at 80 years old, God called them to move. It was that faithfulness in packing their lives up and following God that started the people set apart as God’s own chosen people. Paul was not called to stay in Jerusalem and start the church there. God sent him to spread the gospel everywhere, and God calls us to do the same. Some people believe that there are two types of Christians: those called to move and those called to stay… which heads to the second truth.

2. We have to move to live and grow.

Living things move. Even if they, like trees seem in perceptively slow. When we stop moving, we die.

Church congregations are no exceptions. We feel the tension, the need for growth And change which requires movement. When the tension becomes unbearable, something has to give, and practically speaking, it is easier to move a pastor than to move a church. While hundreds (maybe thousands) of pastors are moving this month dozens of churches are closing their doors for the last time, in part because it was easier for them to just keep moving their pastors than to do the hard work of moving the church to the people that need to be touched by God’s saving grace. Easier does not always (or even usually) mean better. Dying requires less effort than picking up your mat and walking to someplace new.

What is moving in your life?

Where is God calling you to move?

Chosen to Harvest


Chosen to Harvest

Psalm 126

A Harvest of Joy

A Song of Ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us,

and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears

reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

carrying their sheaves.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

We are made to harvest. Sometimes we confuse harvest with prosperity though. We want to harvest wealth. We want blessing, honor, and power. We want respect. We want all this and more, and we want it yesterday.

I remember being unemployed and technically homeless several years ago. It frustrated me how my email inbox would fill up with get-rich-quick schemes every day, tempting me to part with the little money I had in a gamble for a quick return. Those businesses tapped into my basic desire to be a harvester and tried to exploit it. We all have that need. We want to work and have our work bring us gainful purpose.

Paul struggled leaving the churches he helped start because he was not able to harvest the fruit of his labor. He wanted to see people grow in their faith. Perhaps he wanted to test his teachings, to see if they stood up to the experience of others. More specifically, he wanted to be sure the people had not been pulled away by lies… specifically lies about things to do to get blessings more quickly.

The Psalmist reminds us that our fortunes come from God ultimately, and that what we reap is based upon what we sow. Yet he does not equate reaping blessing by sowing blessing . Instead he says, “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” Sadness does not guarantee success. But not sowing at all promises nothing. In a strange way, I think God just wants us to try, and to try our best. When we sow out of our poverty, God provides in ways that pick up where our strength ends. Often, there is even a little left over. In this way we truly do rejoice as we bring in our harvest, our sheaves, because we worked hard sowing, came up short but found more than we expected come harvest time.

What do you harvest?

What do you hope to harvest?

God’s Timing


God’s Timing

Genesis 21:1-7

The Birth of Isaac 1

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Romans 5:1-8

Results of Justification

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

God speaks and creates the world around us. He uses His voice to teach us wisdom and to promise blessings in our lives. Following His voice, we put aside our pasts and find new ways to live. He does all of this and more, which is cause for constant thanksgiving except for onethiy: His timing.

God’s timing is not in sync with our own. He frustrates us most when He is showing His best but not when we hoped, expected, and planned for it. His ways are not our ways, and His timing is not our timing. It is better.

That is not always apparent though. Abraham and Sarah waited 20 years after God promised them a child before they experienced that promise kept. That was 20 more years they could have spent loving their son. Why? Simply because God thought a 60-year old giving birth was not challenging enough for Him so He raised the stakes to 80? Perhaps. God does show off His power more often than I believe we recognize. But ask yourself this: Do you think waiting for 20 years changed Abrahm and Sarah? I think it did. In fact, if the birth had taken place immediately, I don’t think Abraham would have had the faith or willingness to offer young Isaac back to God on Mount Moriah. They were changed not just by the miracle, but also in waiting on God’s timing of it.

On the other hand, God’s timing often is faster than our own. While He may sometimes seem slow to bring us blessings we focus on, like the watched kettle that never boils, He is incredibly quick to forgive. In fact, it often seems like God forgives us before we are even sorry. Aid so it should seem, for so it is. God does not wait for us to be ready for forgiveness. He sends it when we need it, not when we want it. We always need it before we want it. He exemplifies love to us in His timing by giving us what we need, when we need it… not what we want, when we want it.

How are you experiencing God’s timing today?

How are you loving according to the example of God’s timing?

  1. (Heb 11:11)




Genesis 24:10-52

“Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all kinds of choice gifts from his master; and he set out and went to Aram-naharaim, to the city of Nahor. He made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water; it was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let the girl to whom I shall say, ‘Please offer your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

Before he had finished speaking, there was Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, coming out with her water jar on her shoulder. The girl was very fair to look upon, a virgin, whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up. Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me sip a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the Lord had made his journey successful.

When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, and said, “Tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” She added, “We have plenty of straw and fodder and a place to spend the night.” The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the way to the house of my master’s kin.”

Then the girl ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Rebekah had a brother whose name was Laban; and Laban ran out to the man, to the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose-ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and when he heard the words of his sister Rebekah, “Thus the man spoke to me,” he went to the man; and there he was, standing by the camels at the spring. He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside when I have prepared the house and a place for the camels?” So the man came into the house; and Laban unloaded the camels, and gave him straw and fodder for the camels, and water to wash his feet and the feet of the men who were with him. Then food was set before him to eat; but he said, “I will not eat until I have told my errand.” He said, “Speak on.”

So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’ I said to my master, ‘Perhaps the woman will not follow me.’ But he said to me, ‘The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with you and make your way successful. You shall get a wife for my son from my kindred, from my father’s house. Then you will be free from my oath, when you come to my kindred; even if they will not give her to you, you will be free from my oath.’

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”

Then Laban and Bethuel answered, “The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good. Look, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.”

When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord.

Mark 7:1-13

The Tradition of the Elders1

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”

Traditions are created and sustained for reasons. Maybe I have watched too many murder mysteries, but I’ve come to believe that everyone and everything has motive. Every tradition has a start date and someone who got something out of it. The things we try and do not go over well we do not repeat, and traditions stop being traditions when we stop repeating them.

God started some traditions. The Sabbath is a great example of one. We keep the Sabbath so long as we get something good out of it, but as soon as a better option comes our way we make a run for it. You see, our selfish nature makes it harder to keep traditions for the sake of others rather than ourselves. Many people will recycle waste materials if it is free. Lots will do it if they get paid for it. Most will stop if they have to pay extra for recycling to be available.

So, when Abraham’s servant went looking for a wife for Isaac, he had a choice. The tradition was to take spouses from your own people. This had a lot to do with keeping families strong and property in the same family or tribe. That tradition made a lot of sense when they lived back home in Ur. If you want to start something new… a new tribe, it makes more sense to get in good with the neighbors. More treaties have been made throughout history by marriages than perhaps anything else. So Abraham’s servant was keeping tradition at a time when it made no sense to do so. It was keeping tradition for God not for themselves.

That is the opposite of the Pharisees in Mark. They held fast to tradition not for God’s sake, but because they were afraid of losing their identity. They practiced their traditions to be seen, not solely to honor God. Would you like to know a little secret? Wherever we let our natural selfishness direct our spiritual practices we move away from true religion and move into politics and personal preference. It’s not that religious practice is bad. It is that it is rarely pure.

Jesus teaches us to be aware of those impurities and to surrender them over to God.

What traditions are directing you this week?

What traditions that God has given us could you practice this week?

  1. (Mt 15:1–20)

You can’t Go Home Again


You Can’t Go Home Again

Genesis 24:1-9

The Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter.

Acts 7:35-43

It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands. But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices

forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?

No; you took along the tent of Moloch,

and the star of your god Rephan,

the images that you made to worship;

so I will remove you beyond Babylon.’

Thomas Wolfe’s posthumously published novel You Can’t Go Home Again puts a new spin on the experience of Jesus and the prophets and their work in their hometowns and parallels it with the work of an artist… in this case, an author. The memories he shared of his childhood home made him, and the people of his hometown nationally known. He appreciated the celebrity status. They did not. While he was not preaching to them, his nuanced portrayal would have dug into their own more secure self-perceptions. His artistic portrayal was challenging and in so being – prophetic.

There is another bit of prophetic work here as well, within the prophet-artist themselves. The home they portray is no more objetive than that of their neighbors. Even more than the direct criticism they receive, their own eyes and ears witness a different reality of home when they return home from their time away, out in the bigger world. Our attempts to return home frustrate ourselves, giving us doubts about our memories. One ancient Chinese poet, He Zhizhang, writes about this:

1 少小離家老大回

2 鄉音無改鬢毛摧(衰)

3 兒童相見不相識

4 笑問客從何處來

1 In youth, I left, now aged, I’ve come home,

2 My tongue unchanged, my hair thinner grown.

3 Unknown am I, to the children I meet,

4 Smiling they ask, “Where are you from?”1

Once you’ve left, you cannot go home again. One of the lies we are told is that we can somehow return to those romanticized places that may never have existed in the first place. On the other hand, Once you have met Jesus, nothing else looks the same ever again.

God doesn’t want us looking back wistfully. He wants us to lean forward into a future with Him.

What longing keeps you looking back?

What hope of a new home with Christ leads you onward?