The world is not my home,
I’m just a passin’ through,
Come on up to the house.
I hate to even try an add anything to such a moving composition. Assuming you just watched the video before scrolling down to read these words, I think the two of us just need to take a breather while the gravel from Tom Waits’s voice finishes rattling around in our ears and in our heart.
Ok. Nothing I’m about to say is an attempt to speak for Mr. Waits or his intentions. I am about to do what every good writer does and appropriate the words of others to my own ends. I like the tension set up in the refrain of the song, and like a good Episcopalian, I am forging a middle road. We are torn between a desperate expectation that God will rescue us out of this mess totally (the world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through), and a deep responsibility to live in the world and do it well (come on up to the house).
There was an expectation in the first century. They were looking for someone. Some were looking for another hand that could hold a sword and kill a few extra Romans. Others were finding ways to get along, reform the corruption they could affect, and in our parlance, “be always mindful of the needs of others.”
I want to be as clear as possible. I am not really downing either way. Somehow the tension between the sharp birth pains of God’s coming Kingdom and the day to day mustard seed horticulture of the Church give us the two sides of a coin. A coin we can flip every day and still remain faithful. When we are spent, tired, worn out, can’t stand another meeting or another sermon, we can have the hope of a dynamic force that is surging across this world. We can hope for it to energize us and sweep us away. Sometimes it does. But we still have to live here. I live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. So when I go on up to the house on Sunday mornings, I have to drive through a public housing project. I have to be present to generational poverty, unemployment, loneliness, and neglect all on my way to church. I have to also believe that this world is not so broken that the same swirling, dynamic, amazing grace of God has something in mind for this world. I can’t just pass through. But some days I really want to say, this is not my home.
The season of Advent reminds us that God has not abandoned us, but has given us power and authority in Jesus to lay down our lives as he did. To give of ourselves now. The expectation of the coming Messiah is the hope that we can also participating in the renewal of all things.
Come on up to the house.
Today’s advent author is Charles McClain from St. Paul’s Murfreesboro, Tn.