Sighisoara is full of tourists this time of year. Dark haired, Italian beauties leaning against ancient Draculesque walls in paparazzi poses. Germans out for a brisk walk. The Brits snapping photos. It seems that you can find all of Europe snuggled into the arms of this very old, very quaint, quite unassuming Saxon citadel on the cusp of the new year. And, yes, we took a touristy New Year’s stroll after watching the midnight fireworks display in the shadow of the clock tower. #touristy
But our friend, Oanna, points out that for those who live here, Sighisoara is just ‘home’. That sounds so obvious and yet, her words are simply insightful. You never really know a place by visiting its iconic stops.
And that makes me think about God in this new year.
Our Book is full of iconic stops in the history of our Christianity. From a garden in Eden to a garden in Gethsemene to a garden in a new, redeemed Earth; these are points where we glimpse the very heart of God. In our creation, in our salvation, and in our redemption; we come to appreciate our worth to the creator and sustainer of all of history. But stopping by to take a photo of these important places is much different than nestling in and making a home.
Do you think that we Christians get lost in the tourism of our journey? What I mean is, reading this amazing narrative of God’s relationship with mankind, from beginning to end, it is just that, a relationship. And regardless of how you read the first three chapters of our Beginning or the last book of our New Understanding, all of us must agree that the pivotal point is relationship. God’s relentless, eternal, uncompromising endeavor to gather us into the safety of his heartbeat. So, if relationship is that important to the one who designed our DNA, it would seem logical to suppose that we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him. Relationship with each other. Not tourism. Incarnation; which is God becoming present with and dwelling with us. The creation of mankind was not simply an iconic stop for God. He came. He dwelt. He lived amongst us. Do we endeavor to live, truly live, to nestle, to build our home in Him?
Nestled into the quietly pleasant goodness of Oanna and Relu’s home last night, it is easy to see that there is something that surpasses culture and language. With 6 girls snuggled onto a couch watching a princess and singing along, over warm bowls of Romanian Chorba (traditional Romanian meatball soup), the heart of a pastor, the ache of parenting, the challenges of ministry, the grind of daily living, the relentlessness of cold winters and hot summers are common denominators in our human sojourn. And, the Eastern European understanding of relationship brings me so much closer to the heart of God.
To talk of God, to delve deeper than tourism in Sighisoara is to understand that relationship with God always means missioning. By that, I mean that we cannot fully understand the iconic stops in our Book without recognizing that our Creator and our Sustainer is always relational and always missional. He is always coming to us. He is always pursuing us. He is always moving toward us. He is always making a way for us. There is always, within the heart and the being of God, a constant motion toward us, His creation. And, if I could be bold for a moment, I would propose that He inserted that same DNA into us. He calls us to Himself and he sends us to others. Constantly. If we are to understand this dynamic properly, it means that we live our lives poured out for others. Relationally. Missionally. In God’s perfect plan, there are no iconic stops. There is no tourism. There is life. Abundant. Warm. Rich. Peaceful. Honest. Welcoming. Just like Roberta’s kitchen in Sighisoara on a cold January morning.
It is one of the reasons we like to come to the Citadel in the winter. Chances are good that sometime tucked in between the cornbread and the clanging of the church bell, we can get Roberta talking. We will hear her stories about outer space and science, and astronauts, and moon dust in Arkansas accents. It is a great conversation to have with Roberta, if you ever get a chance to taste her cornbread. But above all else, one has the feeling that God is honored here, not as a guest but as the host.
The morning sun is spreading its warmth across the terra-cotta roofs and the city, residents and tourists alike, are waking up. Funny thing, it seems that here on the Citadel, everybody knows Dorothy and Roberta, two women, one from Arkansas and one from Edinburgh, who made their home here in the heart of the Citadel in order to serve the people of Sighisoara.
Thank you, ladies, for your living example of incarnation.