I write a pastoral letter to my congregation every Thursday. This is one of those letters.
Dear West Family
In the last couple of weeks, our family has submitted hundreds of pages of documentation to government authorities relating to immigration. There are many hoops and administrative obstacles that are all part of a due legal process. It is a costly and complicated journey and we respect it deeply and want to do it right. We also have good help in the form of The Stone (who have been wonderful) and counsel and I quite literally have no idea how anyone would accomplish it without significant help to navigate the whole thing.
The questionnaires are thorough and at points confounding. They typically go something like this…
What is your name?
When were you born?
Who really killed JFK?
Using nothing but an orange and a set of matches, calculate the mass of the sun. Show evidence of your work.
Are you a socialist?
Do you eat avocado toast?
Ha! 5 and 6 are the same question!! Explain your lies!
It also involves having your picture taken approximately 14,000 times (it was a little less than this to be fair, and the preacher on Sunday said I shouldn’t lie, so it was probably closer to the 10,000 mark). This meant a very awkward encounter at our local drug store, where they set the photo taking spot up in front of one of the fridges and next to the prescription counter. So, while trying to look non threatening and extremely trustworthy in my photo I was also having to hand some 1% milk to a lady and pretend to not hear about some poor gentlemen’s development of a sudden and quite frankly alarming mystery rash.
And, we have to all of this three times over!
Once for me, once for my wife Sue, and once for my daughter Katie (who I fear may have totally bombed on the JFK question). Now if you know us you may be wondering why I forgot one of my children. What about Daniel? Well, Daniel doesn’t need to do any of this, because…He was born in the USA (cue Springsteen). Daniel is a US citizen and has certain rights as a result, including the right to reside and so he doesn’t need to go through the process.
This brings me – rather too slowly I admit – to my point for today. This whole process has had me thinking about the scandalous grace promised in Psalm 87. In Psalm 87, the Sons of Korah are singing about the marvelous rights that come from being a citizen of Zion, about the joys and freedoms that come from being part of the citizenship of the city of God. This was way better than carrying a US passport, with all due respect. This was the guarantee of the full rights of sons and daughters of the King. This was diplomatic immunity and the promise of eternally booming economy all rolled into one. The Psalm then goes on to say something remarkable and something that must have annoyed anyone who had a Jerusalem passport. It says,
Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—
“This one was born there,”they say.
These were cities that were seen as wicked and abhorrent, and God says that in His grace there would be a day when people from those cities would be given the full birth rights of those from Zion. God held a green card lottery through salvation, and we are all recipients of new passports of the heavenly city as a result.
The point of all of this is simple. It doesn’t really matter where you are coming from, what matters is where God says you are going. Your past restrictions, because of your sin, don’t have to eliminate you from your inheritance as a son or daughter and from your citizenship in the new Jerusalem.
Just think of it, in the great passport and customs line in the sky, all of us who are in Christ can expect the warm greeting,
‘This one was born in Zion. Welcome home’.
See you Sunday, fellow citizens.