What does it feel like to be in exile? Not having ever been in exile with no chance of ever coming home, I can’t imagine what it must feel like. Can you?
But wait a minute. We actually might know people, family members or friends, who are in exile right in our community, maybe even while living in their own houses.
Imagine waking up some morning and knowing who you are but not knowing what happened last week or even yesterday. You can remember all your favorite hymns and favorite scriptures that you’ve memorized but your grasp on reality seems to be slipping.
The only constant you have is that the loving presence of family, and God, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. With that there is comfort and joy.
Or what about those who have secrets that they can’t reveal to anyone or they would be ostracized and excluded from community and even family gatherings.
Imagine carrying this secret around with you every day and longing just to tell someone hoping to feel some acceptance and understanding without fear or rejection.
But you can’t because you’ve seen others reveal their secrets and not be able to survive the criticism and shunning. You’ve witnessed families torn apart, friends become enemies, and even seen folks fired from their jobs. So, you can’t possibly let anyone know this secret buried deep within you.
Look what happened to Jesus. He was whipped and mocked and rejected for being true to God and to himself. I wonder, sometimes, if he thinks it was worth it. That’s why I can’t tell you my secret because I’m not sure. I don’t believe society has changed. Won’t I receive the same tongue lashing and maybe worse, maybe my friends will turn their backs on me because I didn’t trust them with my secret.
Living with this is like being in exile. I am in exile. What I know is true is abhorrent to others and it just tears me apart. I know who I am but I just can’t tell anyone.
It’s only with God that I feel safe and comfortable. It’s only when I’m with God that I’m able to experience joy because I know he knows and I know he still loves me.
Or maybe someone has lost their best friend, their partner in life, and their world has been torn apart. They still have to go to work, they still have to get their mail, they still have to buy groceries and go to meetings. They still remember the day they heard the words that he/she was gone.
They’re filled with questions. Why me? Why now? Why did he/she have to leave me alone? How am I going to make it by myself?
They walk and act as if they’re in a fog, just going through the motions dealing with all the everyday things of life but inside their heart is frozen in that time and space when they got the news and they can’t feel anymore, can’t feel anything. All they can think about is how they’re going to get through the day or this week or the rest of their life. They question where God is now when they need him so desperately.
Maybe being in exile is like those who are autistic. They like the way worship services are ordered, the same every Sunday. They know what hymn is going to be sung by looking at the page number in the bulletin. They find it difficult to adjust when things change.
They like the music but not if there’s microphone feedback or if it’s not too loud and people don’t clap too loudly. If that happens they plug their ears with their fingers and make their own noise so they can’t hear the other noise. It’s frustrating when children mimic them.
They like listening to the same words spoken at communion. They like how there’s always a loaf of bread and a cup and the same responses are spoken. They know them by heart. But they don’t like sharing the peace because people want to touch them, hug them, or shake their hand. And so, they say a little too loudly, “Don’t touch me, please!”
They like being with people but sometimes they have to leave because they’ve had enough of us for the day. Sometimes they don’t understand why their family takes them out. They feel like they’re not part of the community. They don’t know why because they know they know things that some others don’t know but they don’t stay around to listen.
These are examples of exile. Maybe one of these voices could be yours. Think about the different voices in our church, in our community. Think about those who might feel like they’re living in exile.
May God fill us with his all knowing grace this day. Amen.