Reflection on Returning from exile: Here we have no abiding city
Here we have no everlasting city but are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13. 14)
At the beginning of the pandemic I found myself thinking about the great South American civilisations that were destroyed not so much by the Spanish conquerors but by the diseases they brought with them. Their abandoned cities, lost for centuries, have now become tourist destinations. This thought returned during last week when I saw pictures of deserted streets in the city of London and imagined the buildings ruined and taken over by vegetation. What once seemed permanent suddenly seems fragile. No city on earth is everlasting. Nothing, not even fabulous cities and great empires are permanent. The bible records the rise and fall of empires in Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. The Apocrypha tells us of the Greek empire and the New Testament of events under Roman rule. We are reminded that nothing human is permanent.
As we resume going about our daily lives something has shifted and we have to think about even the most mundane of activities. it feels as though these are not just strange times but that we are strangers living in a strange land. The twin themes of being a stranger in the land and being on a pilgrimage to our true home recur over and over again throughout the bible, from the expulsion from the Garden of Eden on. Without God we are restless. Everything after the expulsion from Eden becomes a search to find our true home. At times of change we can only follow as best we can, as Abraham, as Moses and all the characters in the bible did.
It looks as though we will be living with on-going changes for some time and that we will go on feeling unsettled as a result. All we can do is look to that which is unchanging, our true home, which is God. With God we are at home wherever we are.
you have made us for yourself
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
Pour your love into our hearts and draw us to yourself
and so bring us at last to your heavenly city
where we shall see you face to face
through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and forever.
(Collect for the 17th Sunday after Trinity CW)