A God of place as well as pilgrimageby Keith Kingsley, Formosa, Argentina
The longer I live, the more I sense that truth comes in pairs, i.e. “this is true” and “that is true.” These pairs are often contradictory, or at least paradoxical. Thus, I find the truth of what my friend Dennis Byler has written, “A God on the Move” (March 4) to be part of just such a paradox.
God is a God of pilgrimage, and (not “but”) God is a God of place. Unlike Dennis, Jesus did not live in three different countries and have three passports. True, within Palestine, at least in his adult life, he was often on the move. Still, he moved mostly by walking and was immersed in a given people, culture, territory and place that he came to love. True, he didn’t possess the land or make his citizenship there some kind of ultimate value.
Still, incarnating the purpose of God, he became “native to his place,” enough to regret leaving it.
There are people these days, deeply committed to the God of the Bible, who encourage commitment to place, feeling that the God of Incarnation calls us to share God’s love for the world in its specificity and locality, its particular peoples, cultures, bioregions, places.
These folks believe that global culture and its frantic mobility tend to destroy identity, wisdom, diversity and commitment, qualities grounded and nurtured in specific, small, lasting communities and places. Relatively settled peoples, especially indigenous groups, have traditionally tended the earth and its human and ecological communities without self-indulgence.
Are there temptations associated with settledness? Yes. Dennis identifies some of them. Are there temptations associated with pilgrimage? I think there are; one might be the illusory hope that one more mile, one more new adventure, one more vista will bring the longed-for fulfillment, the answer.
Still, God is the God of pilgrimage and also the God of place, of all places.
Associated Issue: Lessons from the road - March 4, 2008
Associated Article: A God on the move
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
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- EMM focuses on African-American reps