Bread and directions

Pastor Tom Jeske

Traveling through a foreign country carries with it a certain level of stress. You are different. People look at you. Or they don’t look at you. Simple duties become a struggle. Buying bread. Asking directions. Navigating a train schedule. Finding a post office or even a restroom. The tension is a ready reminder that you are far from home.

Sometimes you just have to take out that navy-blue passport, look at the gold-stamped eagle, and remind yourself, “That is who I am. There is such a place as home.”

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 6:31,32).

Who is it that runs after food, drink, and clothes? Pagans. “Pagan” means someone who does not know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent. A pagan has no higher goals than feeding his body and dressing his body. This is his home. He or she knows no other. Have you met any pagans? Do you work with any? Do you live with any?

An extended stay in a foreign country taught me some things about myself. When far from home I am very conscious about money. Many times each day I will ask, “How much does this cost?” I double-check the currency in my wallet. On the train, I mentally rehearse the steps that the bank would require before they entrust me with more money.

My anxiety reminds me that I was born a pagan. Sometimes I still think like one. I think the affairs of life—what I eat, drink, wear, and the house I live in—are the only things that matter. The inventory of my things easily becomes the measure of my personal happiness. This pagan perspective is common, but it is not right.

When I am far from home I am also very conscious about my passport. Simply stated, my ID means the difference between continuing the journey or halting in frustration.

“Seek first [God’s] kingdom . . . and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

The King’s great gift is righteousness, that is, to be right with him. God’s approval comes only through faith in his Son.

I am grateful that it was pagans that Jesus summoned to faith. His call changed them into learners and followers. It means I’m called from being a pagan to being an alien here in this world. To remember that I possess righteousness because of Jesus, well, that’s like taking out my passport. To make sure of my ID is to possess the one gift before which my stress and worry and tension fade away.

All heaven’s blessings underwrite the lives of Christians, wherever in the world we are at the moment. Experience teaches that whether in an airport or hospital, at an interstate rest stop, or in a college campus or nursing home, we will be like pagans. The questions of “What shall we eat? Drink? Wear?” will pick at us. Part of our—and all Christians’—worldview is that we are away from home. Our citizenship is in heaven.

One day, stranger, you will be home. But today you are traveling through a foreign country, and you sense it acutely.

So check your passport, Christian. Because of Jesus, your heavenly Father has already given you citizenship in his kingdom. Will he refuse, forget, or fail to give you bread and directions?

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Living Hope Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE