I have not blogged much this week because I have been moving all my books and writing gear from the little study-den in our home to take over what was the family room.
I commandeered the space as we are now pretty much empty nesters, and I thought I could spread my wings a bit.
It was also an opportunity to clear out some stuff and browse through a few items from the past that I have kept for nostalgic reasons.
One of these items was the journal I kept on my hitch hiking pilgrimage to Jerusalem from England in 1987. With a stick, a hat and a backpack I set off and stayed in Benedictine monasteries all along the route. For years I have been meaning to write the story in book form, but never really got around to it.
I looked at the first page and it was my thoughts on leaving the flat in Bexhill-on-Sea where I had been an Anglican curate. I was there for four very happy years, met the future Mrs Longenecker there and during my time lived in the flat in an informal religious community with about six other guys.
As I was setting off on my pilgrimage, having stashed what few belongings I had in someone’s garage, I locked the door and commented to my younger brother who had been living with me, “I’m feeling rather sad to lock this door that has not been locked for the last four years!”
See, we had a kind of open door to anyone who wanted to stay and our philosophy about security at the time was that it was best to simply not have anything worth stealing.
So we locked the door and I guess I was a bit emotional and my brother Daryl said about the flat, “Don’t worry mate, that was just one of the tents you were living in as you were passing through.”
He was right about that, and I’ve always loved that phrase the Jews use, “My father was a wandering Aramean.”
How poetic and just that God chose a nomadic tribe as his chosen people. They were living in tents in a harsh desert land, just passing through–always just passing through.
I can remember an old gospel preacher using that as a kind of refrain in his sermon, “I’m just passing through. I’ll . not put my tent stakes too deep.”
I’ve always felt that, and I feel it still.
Now we have been blessed and we have a lovely home in an American suburb, but its just another ten where we’re passing through.
It is beautiful therefore that this same imagery is used for Our Lord. The beginning of John’s gospel says “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” But the language really says “he was tabernacled among us” or even “he pitched his tent among us.”
So the Lord Jesus too, was a nomad. He was just passing through.
If we had more of this understanding about our own lives and the life of this world we would not be so very concerned. I’m not advocating quietism or a semi gnosticism that treats this history and this physical world as unimportant–but just saying it is not the most important.
So I remember that old gospel song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue….”