Rich Mullins was a Christian singer-songwriter through the 80’s and 90’s. Rich died in a car accident in 1997 but left a great legacy behind in the lives of a lot of people. Google him; you will not be disappointed. I rarely like Christian music but I like Rich’s music because it is a mix of real life pain and struggle with a silver lining of faith. Rich, like many of us wrestled with his faith in a heaven-dwelling God when faced with the pain of a life on Earth but he never gave up on the hope that he had found. He wrote a song called Land of my Sojourn. It is about life in America as one who believed his real home was in another place, a place where all is good and there is no longer any pain; an eternity with Jesus. Until then he would sojourn in the USA.
I have lived in England for almost ten and half years and am now counting down a few months here before moving back to Northern Ireland. It has come as a bit of a surprise and I am not sure it has really sunk in yet that in just a few months I will be back where I grew up. This has obviously caused me to reflect on what it means to live somewhere that isn’t my ‘home’ and what it means to return. It turns out what I have ended up reflecting on is that my sojourn in England, has taught me a lot about my sojourn on Earth.
When we encounter Jesus and choose a life of following Him we begin to experience a change of identity. It is hard to describe but it is a change of allegiance. We begin to give our allegiance to another King and His kingdom. We begin to understand ourselves as being part of a wider family of believers and as citizens of another place; the kingdom of heaven. Some of us begin to see things in entirely different ways. Our eyes become opened to things we may have missed before, things of beauty and things that seem wrong, we begin to see beauty and brokenness that we had never noticed before. We experience a resonance and a dissonance between the Kingdom we have been brought into and the earth in which we live. It is almost like we begin to miss our home in heaven with God despite us having never been there. We long for our promised home.
Throughout my time in England I have often found myself getting excited when I stumble upon Northern Irish products in supermarkets. I find myself drinking Club Orange and eating Tayto crisps. I buy Irish Dairy Milk despite it being a lot more expensive. I have Veda bread brought by anyone who has been visiting the homeland like malt loaf contraband. These foods served as little reminders of home. They were a small comfort when I missed family or accents. They were little pieces of home that fashioned my life in a place that was different.
The Bible begins with a perfect place and ends with the creation of another. The story in the middle is a journey of humanity from one perfect world to another. From one sinless place to another. From one place of perfect joy, peace and freedom to another. The journey in between is of a people experiencing the promise of a God who saves; a God who leaves clues and promises along the way that they will make it home again. In the Old Testament we read imagery of a God who comes to live with His people in the middle of a tumultuous history and promises rescue. Little signs pointing towards His Kingdom.
The New Testament sees a change that was, in retrospect, clearly promised but yet unexpected. Suddenly the God of creation inhabited His people through His Spirit. The New Testament writers talk about these believers as experiencing the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and Gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12. 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4). These were the fruits of their new Kingdom brought through the gifts from the King. For every time one believer spoke a word of encouragement they may have built love or peace into the heart of another. Every time one was healed faithfulness may be built in another.
These were the things of their home being brought to the land of their sojourn. They lived in a place that was incongruous with the place they now called home, and they were called to bring their home here. When we live as Christians that is the call on our life, to bring heaven here. This is not through calling it down through parted clouds on a beam of light, but through our words and actions. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God living in the Kingdom of earth. Our words and actions are placing the things of heaven onto earth. We are making this place a little more like home. Let us commit to bringing the things of heaven to earth; the land of our sojourn.