Right after we got married – like the same week – my wife and I moved from Missouri to Ohio. One of the first friends we made there was a couple who had us over for dinner. It turned out, the husband was of Swedish descent and really took pride in his heritage. Their home had Swedish flags hanging in it, and he even prayed for the meal in Swedish.
So it wasn’t a huge surprise when, a couple of months later, his wife asked me what I had planned for Swedish Day.
I should explain: one of the interesting cultural features of Dayton, OH, where we had moved, was the abundance of festivals. From April to October, there were multiple festivals every weekend. Strawberry Festival. Popcorn Festival. Italian Festival. German Fest. Irish Fest. Hispanic Fest. Garlic Fest. Chocolate Fest!
I’m not exaggerating. So I wasn’t super surprised when my friend asked me how I was planning to celebrate Swedish Day. I confessed, however, that I didn’t know Swedish Day was coming up and asked what she and her husband had planned.
“Nothing much,” she said. “We’re just going to go to Ikea and get some Swedish meatballs.”
I mean.…that’s a pretty great way to celebrate Swedish Day, right?
I didn’t give Swedish Day another thought until another person asked me, “Hey, what do you have planned for Amanda for Swedish Day?”
This person was not Swedish, as far as I knew. So I stammered and again confessed I didn’t have anything planned. That person looked confused, and a little bit sad and walked away.
But when the third person asked what our Swedish Day plans were, I got nervous. A third time, I confessed – this time with a good deal more embarrassment – that I had no Swedish Day plans. Person three whistled like I was going to be in trouble and said, “Wow. Good luck, man.”
“What gives?!” I finally exclaimed. “Why is being Swedish such a big deal in Dayton? Did Swedish people settle here or something?”
They looked confused, then started laughing. “Not Swedish day. Sweetest Day!”
“What’s Sweetest Day?” I asked.
“Sweetest Day! You do something nice for your sweetest! It’s like Valentine’s Day, but in October!”
It’s true – Sweetest Day is a regional holiday popular in Ohio and Michigan. And my Swedish friends who were going to Ikea… it turned out they just really liked Ikea.
That’s a silly story, but it illustrates an important truth we’re going to be exploring this morning: There’s a big difference between living in a place, and truly being part of a place.
It took us a lot of years to feel like real Daytonians, and the same has been true since we’ve moved to Texas. It took us a couple of years to embrace ‘y’all’ and get season tickets to the state fair and calibrate the proper amount of pity for Oklahoma.
Any of you who are transplants know that feeling, right?
We’re going to be exploring what it means to be saved today, and I want us to think in these terms – that being saved is like moving to a new place: God’s kingdom. God’s country.