Are you living now in Jesus?

So. Do you ever wonder why you’re here?

Oh, I don’t mean here, as in, on the planet, here? Not, why were you born, here. That’s a whole other devotion entirely. But here. In the United States, here. In this country, rather than the one your ancestors came from. Why are you here?

The Fourth of July always does that to me. Gets me to wondering. Where did we all come from? And why? Some of us came here in chains, against our will. My friend Gordon’s people walked across the land bridge from Asia many thousands of years ago. John, who is back in Albuquerque, reminded me that his people from Spain were well settled in that area long before there was any Fourth of July to celebrate. My dad’s friend, Heinz, was a German POW who just never went home after the war. I get to wondering, about all of the “We” who were “tired and poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” America has a statue out in New York harbor that invites, “Send them, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore; Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” A lovely self-portrait, yes? Is that what we were? Sometimes.

It gets me to thinking about my own family. A whole bunch of Swedes. Just as an aside, did you know that Dave and I are so terminally Swedish that if you put our whole family names together, as we did, into one humungously long hyphenated beast, we would be the Andersson-Olofsson-Johansson-Swanson-Andersson(again)-Eriksson-Hanson-Carlson-Larson-Pearson’s. We offered that option to the girls at birth. They found their words immediately and said, “No!” Erickson-Pearson is quite enough, thank you very much. And we are the only four such named creatures in the world. Kinda cool.

These Andersson’s and Swanson’s and Eriksson’s and Hanson’s and Pearson’s came for a variety of reasons, each their own. Alone, or with family. My grandmother, Hannah, was a toddler of three when her family of nine left Malmo and sailed to New York. She had a six-month old baby sister, and five big brothers. I just can’t even imagine what their trip in steerage was like for Hannah’s mother, babe in arms, restless boys underfoot, then off exploring the ends of the huge ship. I hope she had a wonderful, not-from-Mars husband! And from the dump that is Castle Garden on NYC’s lower west tip, (where most of our relatives actually landed, not at Ellis Island if they arrived before 1892), this bungling family managed to find the right train and end up out at the far end of Nebraska. Where they were promptly told they had to change their name because there were already too many Olofsson’s in town. And then build a sod house.

    And I think a good day is getting the laundry done. In my air-conditioned house.
    So I wonder.
    Why on earth did they come? Leave everything?
    Because that is what you did then: leave it all, save perhaps a small trunk. Everything.                                         Mother and father, sisters and brothers, beloved horses. Land. Friends. Pets. Traditions.                                       House. Home.                                                                                                                                                           You left home. And never returned.                                                                                                                         You knew this when you said, “Hej do, Stuga.” Good-bye house.

    You would not be back. No return, no retrieval.
     It haunts me a little. Their stories. Their boldness. Their desperation.

As it turns out, every one of the families that managed somehow to get tangled up in succeeding generations to produce me, brought one thing in common. A song. And a question.

As Americans, we use many questions to ask others about their faith. “Are you saved?” “When did you accept Christ?” “Are you baptized?” Back in the 1980’s, a campaign asked, “Have you found it?” (meaning Jesus, salvation) “Have you invited Jesus to come into your heart?” “Are you born again?” Fair enough. They grow out of our unique experiences of Christianity.

My people all came with a common question that had emerged from their home Bible studies, prayer meetings, and singing the sweet Swedish folk hymns of Lina Sandell. (All against the Swedish law, by the way. Strictly forbidden. My rebellious kinfolk said, ‘you, King, will not be telling me with whom I can pray, or sing, or read the Bible! Or where. Or when.’ I like that. Feisty. Resemblance? )

From their reading and singing and praying emerged one key question. It was the heart of the matter for them, following the Risen One. “Are you living now with Jesus?”

Are you living now with Jesus? Is your relationship so close that it’s like an infusion? Are you abiding in Jesus, as Vikki talked about so eloquently on Sunday?  

Are you so close that you do what he does, would do? Do you give as he gives? Are you “safely in his bosom gathered?” Do you find your power in such intimacy with Jesus that “strength I find to meet my trials here?” And, is it your prayer to “let me live and labor, each day, Lord, in thy grace?”

I grew up saturated in this sensibility. Not just believing in, but “living in.” It is hard to explain. It just is the way it is. Tender, trusting, yet confident, and bold. Because, the One who has been where death is, and got up and left it behind, is the One who lives in you. And me. Are you giving it room to happen? Jesus talks of this in John 17, which makes most of our eyes glaze over, it is so esoteric. But it sure meant a lot to Him! And also to the folks who carried me to the font and into the sanctuary to memorize all these songs of deep communion and trust. I frankly can’t explain it. But I do feel called to bear witness to it. My Confirmation verse was, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him….” Colossians 2:6 So live in him….

It explains me. My passion for justice. For bringing the lost home. For my finding faith again after wandering off in anger; it was in me all along. I told a friend the other day, who asked, “Just why do you want me to hear this song?” (See link below) I told her it was in my DNA. It was my DNA. And that, if you cut me open, this is what you will find. This hope. This confidence. This joy. This love. These holy wings. “Are you living now in Jesus?”

I am so very glad all those “son’s” all came over here and found one another and somehow got mixed up and made me, me. Because this is who I am. Enfolded in God’s grace.

Jan Erickson-Pearson

(Words to the hymn...Thy holy wings, dear Savior, spread gently over me. And through the long night watches, I rest secure in Thee. Whatever may betide me, be Thou my hiding place. And let me live and labor each day, Lord, in Thy grace.
Thy pardon, Savior, grant me, and cleanse me in Thy blood. Give me a willing spirit, a heart both clean and good.O take into Thy keeping Thy children great and small. And while we sweetly slumber, enfold us all.
~Lina Sandell)

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