Story Magazine - Fall, 2012

Changing places: Dislocation and mission

by Richard Bliese

The Christian church is, by its very character, migrant.

I'm surprised by the power and simplicity of this testimony throughout the pages of Scripture. Our witness as people of God seems to gain clarity and force when we are in movement, on a journey, following a path, away from home--in a word, when we are migrant. And it's amazing how often the people of God are on the move in Scripture, changing places: Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel in the wilderness, the Exile, Ruth, Jesus, the Disciples and Paul--to name a few. Why is it that we do some of our best work as witnesses to Christ when we are dislocated as pilgrims, sojourners, aliens and missionaries?

In contrast, and not surprisingly, people on the move revel in finally finding a home. In Scripture, that "home" can be represented as the promised land, a new temple, a mountain (Zion), a return to one's homeland (e.g. Naomi), to one's "home" town (e.g. Nazareth) or to one's home congregation. "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God ..." (Ephesians 2:19).

So Scripture sets up this interesting contrast between established places and changing places, between rest and movement, between being at home and being migrant.

At Luther Seminary, we definitely know about being on the move, being migrant. We are committed to building up our infrastructure to better serve our students. Our strategic plan today involves renovating many buildings on campus, including Bockman Hall and new student housing. This fall has even witnessed our students moving out of Bockman to housing that is more supportive of living and learning for our students and their families. Talk about dislocation!

But as we try to build a home away from home for equipping Christian leaders at Luther Seminary, our goal finally is to prepare these leaders for movement. "Go, therefore!" As church leaders, we are indeed a pilgrim people. Aliens (Acts 7:6). Sojourners (Hebrews 11:9). Exiles (I Peter 2:11). Missionaries (Luke 10). In a fascinating way, it's when we share our stories of migrancy, of missionary movement and of dislocation, that we discover a fascinating dimension of God's call into ministry: The relationship between being a missionary people and being migrant.

Changing places: It's one of the secrets of mission.

I hope you enjoy the stories of "changing places" contained within this edition of Story magazine. There's a lesson in these pages for all of us--an inspiration for the journey.

Pax,
Richard