“Since you call on a God who judges man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.”-St. Peter
Wooh! What a weekend, I think to myself as I drive down the road on Sunday morning back to the housing site. My family had left DC this morning, after coming for the weekend to visit and see the sites. After two full days of walking back and forth across the Mall to various memorials, standing in line to see precious national treasures, or slowly maneuvering through the various Smithsonian exhibits, I was exhausted. What is more, I realized I had another group coming in this afternoon around 4 that I needed to be spiritually and physically ready to greet and lead through an exciting week of seeing Jesus through serving in the city.
Having a new group come in is always exciting, not simply because it is a new batch of kids and another full week of work, but because when the kids arrive they come as strangers to the city. Being a city host involves taking these strangers to the city and letting them see the issues, but more importantly, to put a personal face on these issues and in the process see Jesus behind it all. But there is a strange tension that emerges the longer the summer goes on, which I never had realized until today, after my weekend of being a tour guide to my family. City hosts become familiar to the city and forget that they too are to be strangers here.
When I first arrived in the city, it was a drastic change from the cornfields of Illinois to the historic sidewalks of the Capitol. I was the only one who had never lived in a ‘big city’ and was a complete and total stranger. And at that time, my prayer was not for survival, but to have eyes to see what God was doing here in DC and to respond in obedience. However, over time, familiarity took control. The ministry sites became comfortable, surface conversations with the homeless was easy, and even navigating the city became second nature. I was no longer a stranger to the city, but a native. And this was clearly the case, as I led my family around the city, no longer being upset about the homeless people I walked by outside along the Mall, or passionate about sharing Jesus with those I interacted with at museums. I was a native to the world, not a stranger.
When Peter asks us to live as strangers here, it is a stark challenge to the idea that one needs to be established and set up before effect Kingdom work can happen. When we forget we are to be strangers, we become comfortable and complacent, putting off to tomorrow what we can do today, biding our time until the time is up. New groups always have an amazing and eye opening experience because they come and leave as strangers to the city. As a host, I have missed the fact that no matter how long I live in the city (or for that matter, with my family, or at my college, or wherever) that I am a stranger and long for a home worthy of the Christ who lives in me.
So this week, Jesus, I pray that the new group that comes as strangers to the city, will allow me to reorient my life to being a stranger that I may not be lazy and complacent, but be actively doing your work at each opportunity given me. May I be uncomfortable again, and stand anxiously awaiting my home to be revealed from heaven. Help me be a stranger to the world, living in reverent fear only of You. Amen.
-Alex Thompson, CSM Washington DC Summer 2009 City Host