It’s been a while since the Blanke family has been outdoors “roughing it,” together. But whether it was pitching a tent near our fire in the neighborhood of a friend’s cabin in the Japan Alps or simply driving out of the city and spending the night in Meramec State Park near St. Louis, I remember how much I used to enjoy the chance to be the outdoorsman of the family for a few days, away from the creature comforts of home! Though not everyone always enjoys being out in the elements, there’s something about camping that can bring out the best in people. People who are away from home learn to share their knowledge (how to build a better fire…which hiking trails are most promising, etc.), their food (every campground seemed to have its resident chef or foodies), their own personal stories, and, especially in emergencies, maybe even their own tools or personal belongings. On one trip that Joel and I took to a campgrounds in Kentucky there was a chance to bond with other men and their sons in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible under ordinary circumstances back home. It was nothing too adventurous…just an overnight trip with Joel’s Cub Scout Troop! But though all of us dads were from various and sundry social backgrounds, on this occasion we all had the same equipment and were all equally new to the areas we’d be exploring. There was an uncomplicated level of acceptance and welcome of one another that just seemed to work because nobody was on someone else’s “home turf.” That finding of community where there is not a more permanent home (a final place with a door you shut behind yourself) is what I’ve always liked about camping in particular and travelling, in general.
In the reading for this Sunday we find Jesus and his disciples where we often find the people of God: not on their own home turf. Whether Adam and Eve outside the Garden of Eden, Abraham on his way to a new home from his father’s home in Haran, the children of Israel in the wilderness, or St. Paul journeying to a new place where he would take the message of Christ to those who had never heard it, people in the Scriptures are almost always people for whom the words of the hymn apply: “I’m but a stranger here…heav’n is my home” (LSB 748). Jesus came to shelter all in need of a Father’s love. He ate with those who were outsiders and considered sinners by the “holy” people of his day. He healed those whose diseases cut them off from mainstream society. He journeyed all the way to Jerusalem and a cross. Though He was headed for his heavenly home, He called those who followed him not to put their trust in houses built by human hands, but to find their home in Him. He sheltered all in need of community, along the way.
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of God has no where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). True community is not found in building a “forever home” here below. True community is looking to the gift of the Holy Spirit to join us in fellowship with God’s forever family now, to welcome other strangers in, and to await the Home that is ours, together. Every Sunday we celebrate a meal (Holy Communion) where all who are strangers to God’s mercy and to one another yet know the Home that Jesus gives are welcomed in again. Who are the strangers and sojourners on the way that your life touches? Won’t you welcome one of them today?