Peace be with you

‘home at last’

“…Rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Lukas 10:20)

One of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings is ‘The Prodigal Son’ – with the father who awaits his son.

My brother Roger did some beautiful paintings, at least that is my opinion. You can now decide for yourself in this book. Roger often used Rembrandt’s painting as a model for his own pilgrimage, looking for his children and hoping that he would find his way ‘home’. My sermon at Roger’s funeral was about this theme and here you can read about it. 

Henri Nouwen has written a beautiful book about his own pilgrimage and “homecoming” in the house of his heavenly father. Thank God that’s been done, so it doesn’t really need me. 

I am also on a pilgrimage but for me everything has perhaps taken a bit longer. And while I was traveling I changed, became a citizen of the world who feels at home wherever he is. What’s so nice about it is that, now that I am getting older, there are people all over the world who  welcome me. In fact I feel slightly guilty that so very often I must give a ‘no’ for an answer. No, hotels aren’t going to get rich out of me!

Anyway, perhaps it am not so much a traveller as a ‘pilgrim’. Like in the old Dutch hymn:

‘Where oh pilgrims, are you going, eyes lifted up and hand in hand.’

And then the other half of the congregation would sing in response: 

‘We follow the King’s summons and are going home to the Fatherland.’ 

Photo: Kim from Kansas’

On the way I have often claimed to be God’s ‘errand boy’. Doing little things with a talent for serving which I had received as a special blessing from the Almighty. As an errand boy I eventually got promoted and became ‘God’s donkey’, like the donkey from Bethfagé on the Mount of Olives. The Lord Jesus told his disciples to go and get it so he could mount it and ride into Jerusalem. That’s the kind of donkey I would be happy to be, with a big cross over its shoulders as most donkeys here have. Those donkeys are, in fact, professional Jesus-bearers and that appealed to me tremendously. Somehow simply carrying the Lord Jesus wherever he wanted to go! Let’s have Luke tell us what he remembers of what Jesus said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children…” (and to me?…) “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” (Luke 10:21, 23)

With the next promotion I became the ‘messenger boy’. For a moment I thought that perhaps I had made it and would get a promotion to be ‘a wise man from the east’ (see the camel in the painting), but that was a vain hope. For that position there were still a whole lot of yet much wiser people queuing ahead of me. 

Again in that vision I saw myself walking along, more than fifty years ago. In a long robe, a sunny land, a wilderness, the deserts of the Middle East! And a word that I had seen lying on a table somewhere in Egypt saw fulfillment. I was tired and felt despondent and not well, but I still believe that it was there especially for me; with the following message: – 

In the first verse of chapter 10 of his Gospel St.Luke writes: “and he (the Lord Jesus) sent them … ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” 

And it is immediately followed by the verse: ‘He said to them: “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go!” 

For God’s sake, go and do something about it!

What seems odd about it is that we are always told to ‘follow’ Christ Jesus, and to seek first guidance from the Holy Spirit of God. But Jesus appears somehow to have missed that lesson, as he simply says: ‘Go! And I will follow! I am behind you!’ I am going to visit all those places where you’ve already been to prepare for my coming. Don’t wait and don’t greet anyone on the way. ‘Don’t waste time!’ Of course it is good to be guided by God’s Spirit and to follow the Lord Jesus the Christ, but it is sad to see how much time is wasted with needless waiting, while the Lord himself is getting ready to come… 

For there is urgency in verse four. ‘Go! Don’t wait! I am coming!’ “Do not greet anyone on the road.” i.e. Don’t spend your time saying hello and being nice to all and sundry, and don’t waste time by accepting all the invitations for tea and coffee, lunch, supper. From personal experience I know that a cup of tea will take you at least one hour, coffee is more like one and a half hours, lunch is at least two hours and supper takes for ever. Starting with ‘Good Morning’ and tea you will still be at it for ‘Good Evening’ and supper time, having had plenty to eat but done very little. This is the price you pay for the wonderful hospitality of the Middle East. 

After this we still have verse 5 of chapter 10; ‘When you enter a house, first say: Peace be with you…’ – “Salaam A’leikum!” ‘The Kingdom of God is near you!’ And the answer is still the same: “waA’leikum esSalaam! – and also with you be Peace!” 

It is actually very strange that in western countries, for instance, we hardly ever say or hear such things, in spite of the fact that the Lord Jesus told us to do so! Let us hope that now, with the multitudes of Arabic speaking refugees and immigrants, things will get better. 

Sometimes I think that I am getting on in my pilgrimage and ‘home’ is in sight, although there are a few more things that I would much like to finish. You can read about this at the back of this booklet, under the heading “projects”. 

We would love it if you choose to participate, even if only by wishing one another ‘Peace!’ in the name of our Lord. 

…and His Peace be with you – waSalaamahu A’lekum!   Of course you can also say ‘Shalom’.

homecoming painting

: …and His Peace be with you – waSalaamahu A’lekum!   Of course you can also say ‘Shalom’.”