I arrived back from Kenya last Monday but all this week I have been living as if I was still in Kenya. It is a little thing. I have written instructions to remind me but I am in a routine now and unlikely to forget. Tomorrow my Kenyan trip will be in the past and even this little thing will have come to an end – I will no longer need to take the anti-malarial medication. My life is affected by where I have been.
We all have experienced this in relation to dealing with the C-19 pandemic. Where we were and with whom became issues of public health and hence the desire for isolation to lower that ‘R’ number. Our lives were affected by where we had been.
My Kenyan time was dominated by two conferences – the International Lutheran Council’s World Conference – https://ilc-online.org/news/ – and the LCMS’ Churches in Partnership Conference one after the other. As the sole representative of the ELCE and indeed from the UK in attendance, it was my responsibility to participate well so that I can share the experiences to others. So I have some jobs to do because of where I have been. School children also understand this all too well as they attend school for an education that can be shared with others. Parents understand this also which is why there can be lots of searching for ‘good’ schools.
We know that geography and GPS affect us – and sometimes we have little or no say about them. At other times we have all the say – so that when we go before an altar to marry, everyone hopes – especially our spouse! – that our life is affected by where we have been!
We live in our time and place – even if we want to be somewhere else, we are actually living where we are physically located. The rise of online and digital presence doesn’t eliminate the fact that when the screen goes dark and we walk out of a room, that is our location. Now this location can be fine or depressing, very safe or very dangerous. We might never want to leave there or we might never want to stay there another second but ‘there’ is our location!
And that location, for Christians, is also where Jesus promises to be because of somewhere else Christians have been. Now normally it is a font. Normally it is a font in a church at a worship time. Whatever is normal, what is important is that water was applied to you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and you were brought into God’s Kingdom, God’s family, named by God as his child and Jesus promised to be with you always even to the end (of the age or the world). The disciples’ lives are definitely affected by where we have been! We live our new identity in Christ – we are new creations – in our time and place – conscious of the conditions of our time and place – struggling with sin, the enmity with the world, the hidden forces of darkness – but secure in God’s hands, in his love, in his mercy, in his forgiveness, in his presence.
We return to words, water, bread and wine – usually at a church for worship – to help us remember who we are in Christ, how much we are loved by God – precisely so that no matter where we might go next week even if around the world – we will never be alone. We always live in our time and place and the best way possible is when we keep in focus where we have been – to the word and water of Baptism – so that Jesus and his cross are united with us all the time and in all the places we live.