Learning a Language
So, in August we moved to Scotland. I knew that things would be different, but I thought it would be an easier transition than when I moved to Colombia. I thought - at least I know the language. Looking back, that assumption makes me laugh. The longer I am here the more I realize I don't always know what is being said. I am not as confident that I know the language being spoken. This is most apparent when I am working out. The room has music playing, my coach is telling a group of us to do something or explaining a movement, and I am down on the other end of the room with no earthly idea what is being said. There are even moments when I am standing right next to him and he says something so fast or a little mumbled and I just smile and shake my head. Often, when I am at the gym, I just look around waiting for everyone else to start moving, so that I can know what is happening. This isn't just at the gym, but also in normal conversation with people. There are times that I just smile and nod.
It is in these moments that I am reminded that I am a stranger living in a strange land. Scotland has a lot of similarities to the US, but this is not the US. No matter how long I live here Scotland it will not be my homeland. This reminds me of 1 Peter. Peter writes to a people who have been dispersed, most likely from Rome. He calls them sojourners and exiles (2:11). However, these titles for Peter are not just related to their physical experience of not being in their homeland (though it does apply to that), but they are connected to their spiritual identity. Peter here, and in reality much of the New Testament, pushes forth the truth that in this world Christians are strangers in a strange land. If you belong to Christ, you are a member of a new Kingdom; a kingdom that is not of this world. Thus, as we live in the world around us, we should feel a sense of longing for his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
The feeling of being a stranger in a strange land can often go away when I get around other Americans. We can talk about the odd things that we hear and see in Scotland. We can talk about things we miss from back home. We can talk about parts of Scotland we do appreciate and even love. We can also talk about how we might better understand and adapt to our new host culture. Grabbing a meal with a friend can often be a breath of fresh air when the cultural weariness of daily life is overwhelming.
This same analogy holds true in the Christian life. Trying to walk through this life alone without any friends or as Peter puts it, without any fellow exiles and sojourners, is exhausting if not impossible. This is why the Lord has gathered us into a community. You see, every week we come together for the purpose of reminding ourselves of who we are. We are not of this world or the kingdoms of this world. Not only that, as we assemble, we rehearse the Gospel. We celebrate the great works of God and we hear his Word proclaimed to us. We are reminded not only of who we are but to whom we belong. Sunday worship, for the Christian, functions as a national holiday (we are, after all, a 'holy nation'). Like any other national holidays, it is the day we stop our regular work and we remember who we are, we rest in the Lord's work, and we receive gifts from him that we may be strengthened to go out into a world that is hostile to us. A world where we are strangers and aliens.
I love living here in Scotland. I learn so much each day. Listening to Scots is like learning a new language. More often than not I have to watch the people around me to figure out what exactly is going on. I may take on some Scottish characteristics here and there, but I will still be an American. The same is true with my faith. I live in this world, but it, strangely, is not my world. I am reminded of this most vividly on the Lord's Day when I am ushered into his presence and behold his glory through the preaching of the Word and the partaking of the sacraments. It is here that I am reminded who I truly am. It is here that I am given the gifts of God to sustain me in my call throughout the week as a sojourn in this strange land as an alien and exile.