Last evening as I was finishing up the sermon, I got a call from Brazil. It was my friend and brother in Christ Kevin Brinkman. He is on our prayers for the sheep. His family were missionaries to India and his wife had a severe and sudden bout of MS. They are in Brazil to be with his wife’s family so they can help with the care and support of her and their three children. His wife is making some progress, but it is slow. It was fun because I told him I would be preaching on John 17 and he said wow Tom I was just praying and meditating on John 17 a half hour before I called you. It got me to thinking how he would answer the question - where’s your home. He grew up in Iowa lived for many years in India. Married a woman from India whose mother still lives in India and father lives in Brazil. Where is home for Kevin. How about his children – how would they answer the question – where’s your home?
Children of missionaries aren’t ever truly at home in their missionary country nor are they truly at home in their “home” country. They are called “third culture kids.” Often the only place they feel at home is among other missionary kids.
Our ancestors were immigrants and often the first and second generation of immigrants would talk about the home country. My mom’s family had been in the US for many generations and yet she always dreamed of going to her homeland of Norway
The nation of Israel lived in Egypt for hundreds of years. Generation after generation was born and raised there and yet they never considered Egypt their home. Their homeland was the land that God promised to Abraham.
These missionary kids, our immigrant ancestors and the Israelites who lived in Egypt all had a sense that where they were living was not their home. Do you ever get that sense? We’re born into this world and we’ve never been anywhere else. And yet we never really feel at home here. We’re never at home with the pain and sorrows, with the growing old and dying, with all the losses, imperfections, darkness and evil. Nothing lasts here - everything is decaying and passing away. Even in the best of circumstances we have this sense deep down inside that something is not quite right in this world - that something’s missing. This place, as wonderful and beautiful as it can be – is not our home.
Chapter 1 through 12 in John’s gospel records Jesus public ministry John 13 through 17 records his ministry to his disciples during the evening of the Last Supper. Chapter 17 records Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays to God the Father and the disciples get to listen in on it. It gives them comfort, hope and assurance as Jesus prepares them for his betrayal, crucifixion, and departure.
Jesus prays 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from [e]the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 Just as You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world.
We are not of this world. But we are not to live apart or away from the world. For hundreds of years some Christians were so fed up with the evil in society and the evil even in the church that they set up separate places and communities to live holier lives. That’s how monasteries were formed. And guess what – the evil isn’t just out there it’s in here. You can’t run away from it no matter how hard you try. Monasteries just invented new ways to sin – namely trying to attain righteousness – trying to earn salvation by their own efforts.
Jesus prays to the Father for those whom the Father had given Him,
Out of all the people in the world you and I are the ones that the Father has chosen to give to Jesus. We are each special and unique creations of God and at the same time ordinary sinners – just like the fishermen and tax collectors that God the Father chose to give to Jesus 2000 years ago. God gave them faith He gave them the Holy Spirit and He gave them His Word. Jesus prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil one and then sends them out. God gives us those very same things - the same faith, the same Holy Spirit the same Word and just like the original apostles - he sends us into the world – We have been entrusted with God’s Word and God’s message of good news. And God empowers us to proclaim this good news with our words and deeds – all for the sake of this world that God loves so much.
We are in the world not of the world. God picked you and me out of this world and gave us a new home. And one fine day we’ll join Pr Stew and all the saints that have gone before us. We’ll no longer be missionaries in this strange land. We’ll be home. Amen