Monday, July 12, 2004

No Going Home?

Yesterday, we went home.

The wide, airy spaces of FUMC Allen beckoned us with sweet memories. To preach from these steps is to be showered with pieces of the past, falling lightly on my mental landscape, like orange leaves drifting from unreachable heights.

Here is the spot where Leah and I stood, sunlight blazing down through the unstained glass at the pinnacle of the sanctuary, as Chuck Cox baptized Rachel.

There is the place in the right aisle where I stood, assisting with communion for the first time.

Back there is the room where twelve or thirteen of us awkwardly struggled with mortality and weakness, as we started a new Sunday School class.

I had almost forgotten how much of my formation as a minister took place within these walls and amongst these people. It took my breath away again and again on Sunday.

I have officially moved my charge conference membership to First Allen, and the rest of the family re-joined the church at the end of the 11:00 service. It is a cliché, I know, but it felt like we had indeed come home.

“Home” is a nebulous concept for missionaries. We are well aware that, once we embark on this trip, “home” for us will cease to be a place on a map. All the official “missionary” books inform us that, in the future, coming home will be just as difficult as moving to foreign places. We will forever be “bicultural” people, caught between two cultures, two lifestyles, two social arrangements.

But we Magruders already feel like “bicultural” people. I’m a Methodist preacher, after all, meaning that I threw my lot in with an “itinerant” ministry. From the beginning, I understood that we would move again and again, wherever the bishop and the Spirit so moved!

And so “home” has never meant one particular place, though the Dallas area has seen the bulk of our grown-up years. Instead, we have learned to re-define “home.”

We will always find “home,” first of all, wherever the five of us are together. It doesn’t matter what kind of house, or hut, or cave, we live in. If Leah, Rachel, Chloe, Mallory, and Wes are there, that’s “home”!

But we’re discovering that “home” also includes all of those relationships that we have formed across the world. It includes English bakers, L.A. rock stars, retired preachers, schoolteachers, journalists, and AIDS orphans. When we greet old friends, whether in person or by e-mail, we feel the comforts and security of home.

And “home” includes the body of Christ that we have discovered in every corner of the earth. It includes centuries-old Anglican churches, African village congregations, Pentecostal megachurches, and missionaries in Pakistan. When we worship or pray with these Christians, we feel as if we are one in Christ.

As missionaries, we are learning to take our home with us wherever we go. We understand the old Christian hymn that asserted, “This world is not my home/I’m just a-passin’ through,” but this frees us to roam across this globe and find “home” everywhere and anywhere we look.

The earth is the Lord’s, after all. That’s what the Psalmist said. And where the Lord is, there is everything we might need to feel at home. Thanks be to God for that good, sweet news.