In these last two days before Lent we take a brief glimpse into the First Letter of St. Peter. The opening words chose two nouns which shape the entire vision of what it means to be a Christian.
From one side, he calls us the elect the chosen ones, recalling John's gospel,
It is not you who chose me but I who chose you.
We think religion is about us picking what appeals to us. We think we choose our religion; we choose our church. We forget that first of all God calls us. All we can do is sincerely respond to the call.
Secondly, he calls us exiles, sojourners. Every time we here the immigration debate around us, it can serve as a reminder to us that we are not to behave as citizens. On a spiritual level we surrendered our US citizenship on the day of our baptism. We traded it for citizenship in the Kingdom of God. We are at most green card holders. If we live as Christians we will always feel slightly out of sink with the citizens around us. We will stick out, as foreigners. We will live with one foot in each world.
What makes this so difficult is that we want as adults what we wanted as children, to fit in. The more we change our lives and live as citizens of the kingdom, the more foreign we will look and feel. And that's not only OK; it's good.
It is and always has been a myth that the US or any other earthly country is a Christian nation. There is only one Christian nation, the Kingdom of God, and it is not of this world.
As we prepare to enter Lent perhaps we should ask how we need to transform our lives, with the help of God, so that we might have the courage to live more fully as the elect of God, exiles in this world.