Wednesday, November 27, 2013

a pilgrim church needs pausing places

One of the three main images of the church is that of the pilgrim people (the other’s are people of God and body of Christ, For a full 99 images of church in the New Testament, see the amazing Images of the Church in the New Testament (New Testament Library)).  Behind the image of pilgrimage is a metaphor – of movement, of journey, of travelling light. The Biblical saint of pilgrimage is Abraham, who in Hebrews 11 is commended for his faith in making “his home in the promised land.” What is intriguing is that the pilgrim finds a home. They settle.

Yesterday I was in a meeting discussing future property needs. The phrase pilgrim people was used and it got me thinking about the Biblical tradition. (Bad Principal, I was meant to be thinking property and there I was, lost in a fog of theological and missiological reflection of pilgrimage as a practice.) I began to wonder about the settledness, the pausing places in the Abraham narrative.

So here they are ….

“So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.” Gen 13:18

“The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.” Gen 18:1

“Abraham … lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar.” Gen 20:1

“Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.” Gen 23:4

“So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre … was deeded to Abraham as his property.” Gen 23:17

So there we are, even the great saint of pilgrimage had property. The narrative has numbers of different pausing places – to rest, to encounter God, to bury your dead.

Which dare I say it, sounds a lot like the reasons I hear today for church buildings! When you lay this alongside the commendation in Hebrews, to make homes in promised places, it suggests that a key spiritual practice of pilgrims still includes theologies of Incarnation.

Posted by steve at 07:49 AM

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