Many people enjoy traveling, but everyone knows that travel has its frustrations. Everything is unfamiliar, and you can spend a lot of your vacation time figuring things out and finding your way around. It starts at the airport with, “How do we find the shuttle that gets us to the hotel, and why is it taking so long,;” and then from there, “Where do we catch the bus?… Oh, the subway is better,” someone says, “So where do we find that?…” We finally get there, and ask, ” What time does that place open?… Oh, it’s closed today,” so get back on the bus and go somewhere else; then, “Oops, now its too late for that, we should have gone there first…. Let’s walk six blocks and eat there, the guide book says that’s a good place… What, a two hour wait? Okay, let’s go across the street… Oh boy, that food was terrible, we won’t be going back there. Wow, those shows are expensive; here’s one, but that’s sold out; ah, forget the shows. Okay, rent a car, try to get out of town, take a wrong turn, get in a traffic jam… Finally, back on the right road now; but shucks, its under construction, one lane, long wait…” Well, you get the idea. Been there, done that, perhaps. No matter how well you plan, you will get those unexpected irritations.
Traveling is a lot like life itself, just one darn thing after another. But it is also like life in that along with the unexpected irritations, there are also all kind of pleasant surprises along the way. One time my wife and I were driving out in the country through the rugged beauty of the desert, and then, just a half hour later, we were in a mountain canyon with two feet of snow on the ground, and then found a quaint little mountain village. Getting into conversations with the locals can also be interesting, like the friendly old janitor at the hotel who told us stories of how it was so much better in the old days when that part of town was controlled by the Mafia. Or the time we ran into some old school friends that we’ve seen only a couple times in the last 25 years, and there, a thousand miles from home, we talked about school days and got caught up on how all the kids were doing. Those kinds of things can’t be planned, but can turn out to be the highlights of a vacation.
Traveling is filled with surprises, good and bad. But I can take only so much of that, and then I begin to long for more familiar surroundings. I agree with the old saying, ‘it’s good to go and good to get back,’ no matter how much fun I have.
When you travel to a new place, everything is strange to you, and everyone is a stranger, and you are a stranger to everyone there. It is nice to see different places, but after a while, we do begin to long for the familiar and the comfortable. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz had it right when she wanted to go back to Kansas, and said over and over again the magic words of the spell, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home.” Home, where you know what roads to take, where to eat if you want good food, and, you can sleep in your own bed at night. Home, where you are NOT a stranger to everyone and everything.
This is the image Peter uses (I Peter 1:17) when he says: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, LIVE YOUR LIVES AS STRANGERS HERE.” Live as strangers, Peter says, live always as a stranger to this whole world and everything in it. He uses this image in two more places in this brief letter. In chapter one verse one, he greets his readers as “God’s elect, strangers in the world;” and again in the second chapter (v. 11), there urging his readers to “live as strangers and aliens in this world.” What does Peter mean here? Why shouldn’t we feel at home, not even in our own home?
Many years earlier Peter had left his home to travel with Jesus, following him all around Israel. Later, Peter left home again to travel even farther, preaching to far away nations about Jesus. He was able to do that because he had heard Jesus’ promise of another home. Jesus said in John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in me, for I am going on ahead to my father’s home, and there I will prepare a place for you.” Peter spent three years of his life with Jesus, and knew that he would never feel ‘at home’ again unless he was with Jesus. He knew from experience what we can know by faith in the Bible– that we were created for God and will never feel completely ‘at home’ until we are at home with God.
This life, said St. Teresa of Avila, is like spending a night in a cheap hotel in a strange town, where your only comfort is that you know you will soon be leaving. If you seek your comfort here on this earth, you will always be disappointed, and it will be difficult to leave when the time comes. So Peter tells us to live as strangers, because it won’t be long and it will be time to go. There is a comfort in not getting too comfortable here.
“There’s no place like home…”
Hebrews 11:13-16 — All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country— a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Support us, Lord, all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work done; then Lord, in your mercy, grant us safe lodging, a holy rest and peace at the last. Amen.
–1928 Book of Common Prayer