the second homily offered at the mcc-uganda team meeting on 8 june 2010. i hesitated to post it because it is a lot less polished than i would like it to be. but then i decided, “what the heck.” so, here it is:
ecclesiastes 3:1 for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven
jonah 1: 17 but the lord provided a large fish to swallow up jonah; and jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.
matthew 2:12 and having been warned in a dream not to return to herod, they left for their own country by another road.
homily: betwixt and between
the magi had to return to their own land by a different way because they were different. they were changed by what they saw, what they experienced––they could not continue to function as they were prior to their new knowledge. the magi were betwixt and between… their journey had begun, but they had not arrived.
everything of necessity was different as they had to re-pattern their lives according to what they have seen, learned and understood. likewise for us, everything of necessity will be different as we re-pattern our lives according to what we have been given to see, to know, to understand and experience.
the re-patterning of our lives is not easy. in times of instant travel, the notion of journey has lost its symbolic significance. in times of transition and change there is no instant arrival at a new way of knowing or being. we have set out, but not arrived.
each new breakthrough and insight or revelation in the journey of faith requires a re-patterning of our lives according to what has been given to us to see. when we are in times of transition, wondering if we will return to our own land by the same or a different route, we are in a risky space. a risky space between remembering and hope. there is a season to be in the risky space. to re-member ourselves and our relationships both near and far.
remembering in that we are re-membering what we had left behind. picking up where we left off, or working again at friendships that need some mending. we are re-membering the memories and experiences we have had away from our own land––we wonder what those memories and learnings will look like in this old and yet new context. risky space between remembrance and hope presents a potential context for transformation.
being betwixt and between is not experienced as comfortably riding in an airplane, car or bus where we may bring along comforts of our homes, from either side of the ocean. rather, as some writers of the old and new testaments have more accurately imagined this transitional space as a wilderness or desert. a wild-space…a space of being liminal. we have set out, but not arrived…
being betwixt and between is most palpable in those unexpected moments, when feeling comfortable and good back at home with our friends and family, and suddenly feeling out of place. nothing in particular was said, no one gave you a dirty look, but a memory from a place these people will never experience––and that they have no desire to experience––has struck you. you are not here. you are not there. you are somewhere between the two places. you have returned home, but by a different road.
jesus’ idea of church is not about giving people answers but, in fact, leading them into these liminal and dark spaces where we long and yearn for god, for wisdom and for our own souls. this is––and always has been––the only answer. (richard rohr)
embrace liminality- it is where god is in control and we are not.
we must trust that this darkness (time of transition/change/facing the unknown), is also light unimaginable.
for you i hope that you are cursed with divine restlessness and unsettledness of a pilgrim of christ. that your presence may be a disruption to the norm and at the same time a sign and symbol of peace, joy and loving-kindness. i hope that you are plagued with the faces and names of your brothers and sisters in uganda and that you have no choice but to share those faces, names and stories with your brothers and sisters wherever you may be. i pray that you are never able to be the same again.
i hope that sometimes you inexplicably and randomly crave matooke or posho. i hope that you accidently say “irish” instead of “potatoes”, that when someone asks you how you are, your response is “somehow.”… that you are confused about what kind of greeting is appropriate–that you accidently hug someone you probably “shouldn’t”…that instinctively you hold someone’s hand after shaking it… i hope that you are able to laugh. to cry. to be confused. to ponder and wonder. i hope that you let yourself be changed––and that those you are returning to not only see the change, but are curious about it. i hope that rather than wanting you to “just be who you were” they just desire you to be exactly who you are, and who you will continue to become as the years go by.
i hope that you see your students faces in you dreams, and hear their songs floating on the breeze. i pray that you close your eyes and long for the equatorial sun’s warmth–that you breathe deeply and long for the smells of uganda. i hope that the stories you heard and documented stay with you, and keep you from being too comfortable. i hope that in welcoming new family you are reminded of the family here.
two roads converged in the woods, and most of us took neither of them––we turned and created our own path, charting our own course. and were lucky enough to stumble upon each other. the path widened and continues to widen to hold others as we journey together. this time in transition, of being liminal, is not a t-intersection––but a slight bend in the road. we all continue on––journeying.
may the road rise to meet you.