Thinking a jigsaw

At the moment I am thinking a jigsaw out of a few things that seem to have been put across my path.

One piece is Jeremiah 29, and in particular what it means to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile”:

Thus says the Lord of hosts
to all the exiles
whom I have sent into exile:

Build houses and live in them.
Plant gardens
and eat their produce…
Seek the welfare of the city
where I have sent you
into exile,
and pray to the Lord
on its behalf,
for in its welfare,
you will find your welfare

For I know the plans
I have for you,
says the Lord,
plans for welfare
and not for evil,
to give you a future
and a hope.

Then you will call upon me
and come and pray to me,
and I will hear you.
You will seek me and find me;
when you seek me
with all your heart,
I will be found by you,
says the Lord.

(Jeremiah 29:4-7, 11-12)


Pieces two and three are accept, and hospitality.  Two words which modern usage has tamed into inconsequential fluff compared to the weight of their original meanings:

Accept: late Middle English: from Latin acceptare, frequentative of accipere ‘take something to oneself’, from ad- ‘to’ + capere ‘take’.

Hospitality: from Latin, hostis, which means stranger, enemy. From that, we get hospitem, Latin for guest or host. From these roots, English gets hospital, host, hostel, hotel, hospitality. Hospitals were originally inns for the reception of travellers.   To be hospitable means to offer shelter to a stranger.


And one more, because all good jigsaws have a few odd shaped pieces: the Benedictine vow of stability.

Benedictine vow of stability: (from

We vow to remain all our life with our local community. We live together, pray together, work together, relax together. We give up the temptation to move from place to place in search of an ideal situation. Ultimately there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion. And when interpersonal conflicts arise, we have a great incentive to work things out and restore peace. This means learning the practices of love: acknowledging one’s own offensive behaviour, giving up one’s preferences, forgiving.

Comment from blog at “Benedict’s rule requires a “vow of stability” — the uniquely Benedictine commitment to live in a particular monastic community for life. At first, this may seem to apply least of all amid other ways of life. Yet precisely because it contrasts so sharply with the fragility of most commitments in our hypermodern society, the Benedictine vow of stability may speak more directly to our age and churches than anything else in the Rule… It is no use rediscovering any of our church’s roots, nor discerning innovative ways to be faithful to our church’s calling, if we won’t slow down, stay longer even if we can’t stay put indefinitely, and take something like a vow of stability. Slow down — because postmodernism may really be hypermodernism. Stay longer — because there is no way to discern God’s will together without commitment to sit long together in the first place.”


Now make a jigsaw… this is my currently-being-worked-on version..  I am thinking about God’s calling; being called to go, and being called to stay.  It seems to me that the Biblical principle is that in general we are called to go, unless we are being specifically called to stay.  At this moment I think we are being specifically called to stay.  Not because we have a great or prestigious ministry; we don’t.  But the evidence seems to indicate that God wants us here in commitment and stability.  Which gives us a long-term challenge to seek the welfare of the city where we have been called, and I think one way we do that is through modelling acceptance and hospitality.  Not acceptance and hospitality in the gooey 21st century sense of “I put up with my neighbours, and invite my friends to dinner”, but in a real sense of stepping aside to make room to include the stranger, in this city where we sometimes find ourselves excluded as foreign aliens.  And this, I think is the parable that we are being called to act at the moment, on one hand to point to a God who accepts and transforms each of us from stranger to brother, and on the other hand as a challenge to the Christian community to rediscover the virtues of acceptance and hospitality in our relationships with each other and the neighbourhoods we belong to.

What if God was one of us?…  Just a stranger on the bus. Tryin’ to make his way home?                     Joan Osbourne.