Should I Stay or Should I go?

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2013-06-21 by bean481

Preacher: Phil Wood
16th June 2013
Readings: Luke 10:1-9; Gen 19:1-29


Darling you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I’ll be here ’til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

It’s always tease, tease, tease
You’re happy when I’m on my knees
One day it’s fine and next it’s black
So if you want me off your back
Well, come on and let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

This indecision’s bugging me
If you don’t want me, set me free
Exactly whom I’m supposed to be
Don’t you know which clothes even fit me?
Come on and let me know
Should I cool it or should I blow?


  • My CV – more than thirty different jobs and many more addresses since I was a child.  It’s a 21s Century life.
  • ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ has been a question I’ve asked dozens of times.  Perhaps it strikes a chord with some of us.
  • We live in a culture which is always on the move – no fixed identity.  Always asking the question, ‘who I’m supposed to be’, ‘which clothes even fit me’.
  • We’re taking a look at two themes today – ‘stability’ and ‘wandering’ (home and the road), and how they fit together
  • Since 6th C Rule of Benedict – Vow of Stability
  • Much earlier – early monasticism and biblical tradition
  • Biblical tradition – at home (Eden), the land (though nuances – tenancy) never entirely lost, even in exile – settle down, build communities.  Bible encourages a sense of belonging but not of ownership – stability is not primarily about place but a settled community.
  • Returning to monastic tradition, essentially, we don’t find meaning by travelling here or there but by faithfulness to one monastery – to a single community
  • What is the essence of the meaning of stability: ‘God is not elsewhere’
    • Monks that are always going here or there called ‘gyrovagues’.  See Bernard,

The Vow of Stability

Then come the spiritual gyrovagues: their inconstancy carries them from reading to prayer, from prayer to work, preventing them from obtaining the benefits of their undertakings: stability in effort and perseverance in devotion. Victims of acedia, they think it better at one moment to do one thing, and, at another, something else; they begin everything and finish nothing.


  • Wisdom for the 21st Century – pick and mix spirituality, a little bit from here or there, roaming and rootless
  • That isn’t narrowmindeness – it’s community mindedness
  • For those of us within the Anabaptist tradition there is a relevant piece of historical reflection.  Many 1st generation Anabaptist leaders had monastic background.
  • Much of monastic sense of ‘stality ‘ carried over into Anabaptist community life
  • An interesting example is Amish communities who (for example) often allow tricycles and ban bicycles.  The later allows more distant travel – away from home.  It’s an argument from stability.
  • Whatever we think of the Amish they offer profound insights into the impact of technology on daily life.  What effect does the technology at our beck and call have on the life and stability of our church?


Joy and Pain on the Open Road

  • Yes but, I hear you say – there is another side the biblical story.  What of the tradition of wandering.  The place of mission.  The joy and pain of the road.  How do we make sense of ‘stay’ or ‘go’, stability and journeying?
  • Two kinds of people on the open road – those who choose to be and those who don’t
  • By choice – mission (Abraham, mission of 70, great commission, etc); pilgrimage; romantic (Wordsworth – walking for pleasure or discovery)
  • By suffering – exiles and refugees.  For thousands of Syrian Christians, in refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey the road is a place of loss and suffering.
  • Sometimes two linked (e.g. biblical theme of nomads and settlers – Lot/Agraham – who is settled and who is the wanderer?  Community and not walls make for stability; Anabaptist experience (scattering and exile led to mission) and Celtic monasticism – classic is St Columba – missionary exile.  Celtic – red and white martyrdom.  Latter was exile.  Journey by land or water.

Should I stay or should I go … reflection

Roots for the 21st Century

  • Looking at the 21st C we recognise the down-side of our mobility – rootlessness, distraction.  For the church impact of migration – north/south divide – migration of Christians from cities and from north to south.
  • Staying with the Celtic theme for the moment there are images of monks sailing altars in celtic art.  It’s a powerful illustration of what connections the themes of stability and journeying: community
  • The monk leaves home (wandering) but carries with them means of re-stablishing stability (in their theology a Eucharistic community)
  • Luke 10 – mission of 70.  Journey is vulnerable – few possessions.  Bring peace – find people of peace.  Then ‘remain in the same place’ (i.e. stability) – it is peace which is at the basis of stability.  This in turn is basis for further mission – Kingdom of God is near.  ‘Go out’, v10.  Stay and go are woven together.
  • We live in ago where virtual communities and networks are becoming as important as geographical communities.
  • So, how shall we find ‘stability’?  Stability found not primarily in a place but in a community.  This is how Luke (the early monks and Anabpatist communities under persecution) linked stability and journeying together.
  • Amish wisdow around technology – how does this effect community (technology on trial – mobility limited to what strengthens community)


  • There is no easy answer to the question ‘should I stay or should I go’?
  • But I think there wisdom in saying we ‘should not easily leave that place’.
  • The issue is not so much with staying or leaving, but with stability.  How many of use leave as we have lived – as isolated individuals?
  • In the Anabaptist tradition, ‘stay or go’ is a shared question
  • In this world of declining numbers and mobile Mennonite Centres how shall we grow in stability?


Texts etc

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to kill and keep it (Gen 2.15)

He drove out the man… (Gen 3.24)

In whatever place you find yourself, do not easily leave that place (St. Anthony)

Go into all the world… (Mk 16.15)

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce (Jer 29.5)

Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you (Gen 12.1)

The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change. (Nancy Sleeth)

Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Luke 9.58)

Without roots we can neither discover where we belong, nor can we grow. (Esther de Waal)

My father was a wandering Aramean (Deut 26.5)

If a man settles in a certain place and does not bring forth the fruit of that place, the place itself casts him out, as one who has not borne its fruit.  (Desert Mother and Fathers)

All the world is my parish.  (John Wesley)


To be earthed is to come alive in a new sense of mission.  A new capacity to give life is born, not by myself but in the body of community.  (Jean Vanier)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them”. (Rev 21.3)

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