Thursday, June 08, 2006

Aliens in Your Pew

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ll know that the debate in the United States over the issue of illegal immigration is loud and ugly. We’re not going to tell you whether it’s right or wrong to help people who are in this country illegally. However, we would like to talk to you about a group of immigrants. Another word to describe an immigrant, legal or illegal, is “alien”. Don’t worry—we’re not talking about little green men from Mars here. In this setting, The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “alien” as “relating, belonging, or owing allegiance to another country or government.”

Every Sunday when you sit in your pew, you are sitting in the middle of a group of aliens. Next time you’re in worship, look around you. Mrs. Smith who always sits behind you? She’s an alien. Mr. Peters is an alien, too. And while you’re at it, look in the mirror, and you will see another alien.

You see, Christians live in this world, but we do not belong in this world. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created in paradise. They were supposed to live there forever in eternal communion with God. When they disobeyed God, they were sent away, sent into exile. They became refugees, people living in a country that was not their own. As their descendants, we also are living in a land to which we don’t belong. Oh, we’ve made ourselves at home here, but we don’t really belong here. We belong in paradise, where we can be in communion with God every day for eternity the way we were meant to be.

I Peter 2:9-11 tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” The Apostle Peter tells us the truth: we are aliens and strangers in this world. But when we were washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, we were restored. We became again God’s people. We were marked with the sign of the cross and the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and by this we were made citizens of the kingdom of God. When we approach the gate to eternal life, these marks will show, and our heavenly Father will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your lord.” We will no longer be aliens in this world to which we don’t belong. We will be home.