Each year it seems like such an undertaking: spending money on travel for myself that could have been used for a family vacation; enduring crowded flights and dreary layovers; trudging to and fro on subway lines and unfamiliar avenues, a stranger in a strange land – all to spend a few fleeting days at a religious conference. Is it worth it, you may ask? Well, I wrote what follows after last year’s conference, and it sums up the reason why I intend to make this annual pilgrimage to New York City as long as there is a Mockingbird Conference.


On Saturday afternoon as I walked out the Chantry doors of Saint George’s, the sky was gray, the air was a damp chill, and the cherry trees with their paper-parchment blossoms had somehow lost their luster. Indeed, the world seemed a very different place from the world I had left on the Thursday prior, as I walked in through those same doors to enter the world of the Mockingbird Conference.
Now, though, as I headed up 16th Street to catch the subway and begin my long trip home, I was engulfed with a profound sense of loss, one that could only be encapsulated in a phrase that kept playing on a repeating reel in the back of my mind:
“Once again, out into the alien world…”
I know that I have often referred back to Gil Kracke’s breakout session from the Pensacola Mini-Conference, and for good reason, because it was simply brilliant. And Gil’s presentation once again came through for me in a time of…grieving, if you will, sadness at the thought that it will be another year before I am once again in a place where I feel so at home and with people that I am so happy to call my brothers and sisters in Christ.
The term that came out of Gil’s presentation and spoke to me in this moment of grief is displacement, a term which describes our state once we are regenerated in Christ. At that point we are and will be until Christ comes again in glory, displaced persons, meaning that we no longer belong where we are, which is this world in which we must live, and we’re not yet where we now belong, which is with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

And as those who are in Christ but not yet with Christ, we live out our days in an alien world and speak to it an alien language–a language of love that speaks to human suffering, indeed, a love that was born out of the ultimate suffering, a love from a loving God that is offered to every and all who will believe and accept that love. But the language of this alien world is instead a language of self-love, a love of self aggrandizement, a love that will not look beyond self to receive the ultimate love that is there but not grasped and indeed flatly rejected on so many levels.

As aliens in this alien world, though, we do from time to time get to see and experience glimpses of what it will be like some day when the Lord comes again, times when we can speak and hear freely the language that is not alien to us as it is to this alien world, the language that we understand and yearn for somewhere in a deep common substratum, the language that is the lost lane-end into heaven.

And my favorite example of this in my life is the annual Mockingbird Conference, where for three days I no longer feel displaced! The alien world is outside, but inside I am with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The door is somehow magically barred against the alien language of self, and I am home! In that time and in that place, for however brief a moment, the truth is the language of the day and the truth sets me free.
Thank you to everyone who made this fellow refugee feel so at home for just a little while.

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