Christ Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Exiles

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:  May grace and peace by multiplied to you.”  1 Peter 1:1-2

Exiles.

That is a good word for us as Christians to understand.  Especially since our Lenten focus on Thursday’s is titled, “Singing with the Exiles.”

However, it is a word that you don’t hear often and which we as Americans today have not experienced firsthand.

An exile is someone who lacks a home.  Whose home is gone or has been taken by another.  Immigrant and Sojourner are similar terms.

Images and photos should flood our heads upon hearing those words.  In the wake of the Islamic Spring earlier this decade, many people in the Middle East fled their homes in search of a better land.   They were exiles.  I remember pictures of boats overflowing to the brim with people, as they fled their war-torn lands, filling up newspapers and online newsfeeds.

As Christians, when we hear of and see exiles, we are called to recognize ourselves.  In fact, the main reason in the Bible that is given for the care of sojourners, immigrants, and exiles is that God’s people themselves are exiles, immigrants, and sojourners. (Exodus 22:21)

The Bible describes all of us as exiles:  Adam and Eve are exiled from paradise, alienated from God’s presence.    Doomed to wander earth until they return to the dust.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob are called to wander in the land that God will one day give to their descendants.

The children of Israel wandered as exiles in the wilderness for 40 years, aimlessly going from camp to camp.

After finding rest in the promise land, the Israelites didn’t last long, after centuries of warnings from the prophets to turn back from their sins, God used a foreign army to smash their cities and to send survivors into exile in a foreign land.

Exiles are scattered abroad.  Neighbors, family members, friends are no longer found in one place, but some are here, some are there, and others are everywhere.

Now take these thoughts about exiles and apply them to the Church.  The church is scattered across the entire globe.  Christians and Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. are also our brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends.  But we are separated.

This is why St. Peter opens his 1st letter by addressing scattered Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia as exiles.

We too are exiles.  In fact, the Greek word that we get for the word “church” means “to be called out.”  It is exactly as St. Peter writes, we are elect exiles.  We are chosen to be exiles on this side of Christ’s second coming.

Our homes now are our places of exile and our exile is home as Christians.  It is our place of operating.    

Rather, we wait for our home to come.  Home is “with the Lord.” As Paul writes.  (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Jesus says that he will one day come “to take us to be with him.” (John 14:1-3) What happened to humanity in the garden by being exiled from God is undone in Christ.  Thanks be to God!
Christ becomes our home.  Our eternal home.

At the end of Revelation, John hears a voice say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God.”  Revelation 21:3

One day the dead will rise, we will be transformed, and God himself will make his home on this transformed earth here with us.

On that day, we will no longer be exiles.  The saints will come marching in!  We will be home and we will be at rest.  That is what exiles have to sing about now!  Amen!

Pastor Andrew Belt