This excerpt of an early Christian letter came to mind as a fitting reflection of our activities this time of year.
I'm sitting in a café at Pearson Airport in Toronto as I write this, making the best use of a layover on my way to a few days in Regina, Saskatchewan, my childhood home.
It's a characteristic of universities: many, if not most of us are from some other place. We make a home at Valpo, but we have "homes" of one sort or another elsewhere and we set out, like latter-day Marys and Josephs, for our own version of Bethlehem. Or we're the ones making room in the inn for distant family members who will arrive soon. If this airport is any measure, countless others are involved in similar migrations.
Certainly some things are being lost by our society's rootlessness and the reunions that the holidays bring are often layered up with blessed traditions as a hoped-for antidote to it all, as though if we could create a Rockwellian moment this rootlessness will be redeemed. But we who are at home and yet not at all have an opportunity to live out our Christian identity in a way similar to that described in the ancient letter.
Admittedly, this is not the original intent of the letter – that was to explain why it was that Christians seemed to be in the prevailing culture and yet at odds with it. Nevertheless this, as a description of your life, is accurate. Each of us is a citizen of some place, yet our ultimate allegiance is tied to the reign of God which has come to be realized in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the sake of the world with which we have this complicated relationship. We look forward to Christ's restoration of the whole created order.
Much is made of the need in this time for us to be global citizens. The ancient author calls you to go one step further, to recognize in your rootlessness that you are one with the whole world because you are united to the one who created it and is actively working out its restoration.
Until then, it's one big trip with longer and shorter layovers here and there, each with its own work to be done.
May God go with you.
+ Pr Jim
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.