Now that we are firmly settled in Lockland, we have been trying hard to get our bearings in this new community. Being in a new place means new rhythms, new dialects, new crises, and new opportunities, all of which require attention, effort, and flexibility, but this is where the gospel calls us. To be present in a culture which is so alien to one’s own is discomfiting, but is nonetheless a surprising blessing. Preaching from Luke 4 this past Sunday has reminded me that the prophets were not sent to the widows and lepers of Israel, but rather to the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. Christ himself comes to His own, and His own reject Him, even (or especially) those of Nazareth. Familiarity breeds contempt, and a prophet is not accepted in his hometown.
We need not necessarily seek out discomfort and difficulty for their own sakes, but we should be willing to accept that the gospel is likely to call us far from those familiar comforts of home. Lockland is not my home, but in the end, neither is Milford, the place where I was raised. We are sojourners, merely passing through on our way to our true home. We are not locals – not anymore. Being in Lockland makes me feel this viscerally, whereas in Milford, I might be inclined to slide back into old patterns and comforts, almost without thinking. Perhaps the Lord knew that I needed to be prodded in this way.
Embracing this discomfort has been a challenge, but we have started to see the Lord work in the ministry we’ve been pursuing. We have established some meaningful contacts in the community. From the conversations I’ve had with those folks, I have learned that the type of ministry which Lockland really needs is steady, committed, lived-in ministry, rather than big, event-driven ministry which comes and goes. This was actually a great relief to me when I was given this advice, since this is precisely the type of ministry to which I feel called. Lockland is an incredibly ethnically diverse community, and many of those different ethnic groups largely stick to themselves. If those walls are going to be broken down by the gospel, it is going to require both the articulation of love and care along with a willingness to follow through in steady, dedicated ways.
The beautiful thing is that the gospel goes beyond all these earthly walls and divisions. All of us are traveling to the same heavenly home, the same Canaan beyond the Jordan River, and all these momentary divisions are just dust in the end. May God help us all to hold our earthly pleasures with loose hands, willing that He might take them from us and put our hands to work for the kingdom.