Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Can McDonald's be Foreign?

I've seen a good bit of the world. This is not to boast, but, rather, I consider it a blessing to have had my mind opened to things quite extraordinary and spectacular. However, I'm left with a striking impression that the world is growing smaller. Even in foreign lands, culture has, for a number of years now, begun to meld together with other cultures - a process that has been sped up by the internet, I believe.

However, there are some cultures which remain truly separate and distinct. This summer, I got to go to Israel (this was right before things started to get really heated up in that area). In this culture, I was truly and undoubtedly a foreigner. I knew none of the language, customs, or setting of life which drove Israeli existence.

If you ever go to Israel, you'll most likely go as part of a tour group. This is pretty much the only option for gringos like us who are so out of place that even ordering from an Israeli McDonald's would be near-impossible. Well, as part of a tour group, you typically go and visit all of the sites where major Biblical events are said to have happened. In most of these places, the Orthodox or Catholic churches have built monolithic Cathedrals to mark the spot.

At a certain point in these tours, everything begins to look the same and your appreciation for the locales that you are being taken to subsides. You become saturated and find it difficult to muster any recognition of the monstrous cathedrals that you're surrounded by. At one such location, named Tabgha, it was told to us that this was the location where Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves of bread for the crowd of 5,000 people.

Well, that's cool, (and probably not a true statement) but I had seen so many sanctuaries by this point that the Koi pond in the front of the building was more fascinating to me than the elaborateness of man-made chapels. As I stared at the fish and our tour group leader droned on with information, I heard something which snatched my audible attention: singing.

And let me make this clear: I had already heard a lot of singing. At every place we stopped, the priest leading our group made sure to sing the Scriptures or some Orthodox hymn. We'd gotten a lot of this ritualistic, chanting-type music along the way. But what I heard in that moment was not some Orthodox tune - it was an evangelical hymn.

As fast as you could say, "Forget the Koi," I up and bolted into the church where I heard the singing and almost immediately joined in song with this group of evangelical believers. Here, in the middle of Israel, surrounded by the foreignness and unfamiliarity of an astoundingly different culture and longing for something that reminded me of home, I was washed with the warm native-ness of what I knew and loved.
 "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." (Philippians 3)
Sometimes, this world is unfamiliar. Not because we're not used to it, but because there is, in our hearts, a desire for more. We long for a satisfaction we cannot attain. No one put it more succintly than C.S. Lewis, who wrote, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."

Today, I long for home. To be done with this broken world. To be wrapped in the familiarity for which my soul was made. Brothers and sisters, we will one day be home.

But for now, make much of the journey.


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