“From Everywhere to Everywhere” is the tagline of Global Mission Fellows, the young adult arm of United Methodist missions. Missionaries come from all over the globe and scatter everywhere to be in mission with God. My “class” of missionaries came together in the Philippines for training as 42 individuals representing 13 different home countries. We went out to serve in many more countries in groups of two or three.
Upon commissioning into service, United Methodist missionaries receive an anchor-cross around our necks. The anchor-cross reminds us of our calling to be on the move and of where our stability is. Home may become difficult to define, but wherever we travel, we are anchored in Jesus Christ. Jesus goes before us and behind us.
In ministry as a pastor, I continue to wear my anchor cross on Sundays. As I am called into new places, new communities and relationships and opportunities to serve God and neighbor, this symbol still provides grounding.
Dislocation and relocation are part of mission and part of life with God. The Lord called to Abram:
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gn.12:1)
For some of us, it was easy, even exciting, to leave our home and family of origin to go to college or the military or mission service, but in Abram’s day uprooting from the family and home was not a normal or easy thing. His father’s house represented security: an inheritance and a future. Abram’s ancestry was his identity. Who knows what values would be held and what languages spoken in the lands to which God called Abram?
God didn’t get into specifics about where Abram would be going, only saying “Go… to the land that I will show you.” The calling refers not to place, but people and identity. “Leave your family and your home,” God says, and,
“All the families of the earth will be blessed in you.” (Gn.12:4)
Saying yes to this call is a risk for Abram. It is a journey away from biological family and social identity, away from the safety Abram knows, and into the global family of God.
During Lent many Christians submit to a journey of fasting: a journey away from one thing (food, Netflix, Facebook…) and toward God. We distance ourselves from something we desire, in an effort to love and desire God more deeply.
Fasting is a journey of blessing for neighbors, as well as self. The Muslim fast of Ramadan has as much focus on community as abstinence from food. Solidarity is part of the reason for fasting. When people who have resources choose not to eat, there is a more level playing field for the poor, who can’t make the same choice. Those who have, gain experience and greater compassion with those who have not. Part of faithfulness during Ramadan is to ensure that everyone has a meal when it is time to break the fast. In the evenings people invite the poor into their homes and community centers, where everyone can eat together.
The fast builds community: an inward and outward blessing.
Fasting also has a way of revealing our weakness. Throughout Lent, we experience waves of acceptance and temptation regarding our fast. We forget or “cheat” once or twice.
After saying “yes” to God, Abram and Sarai still messed up. They chose for Abram to have a child by another woman, failing to trust and wait for the child God promised. They deceived strangers that Sarai was Abram’s sister, not wife. That was supposedly for their safety, but it got them into a mess of trouble.
Saying “yes” to God puts us on a journey: A journey that God will show us along the way. We often don’t know what’s coming next, but we feel ourselves and our desires being challenged. We often mess up, but God stays with us on the journey, continues to redirect us and make a way for us. God is patient with us because it’s not just about me or you; it’s about God’s global family:
I will bless you … and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
God calls and pursues to bring all the earth into the fold. That is the hope for which Jesus went to the cross. That is the hope that anchors us in our journey.