Sojourner, Story and the Savior
"A people without history is like the wind on the buffalo grass." --A Sioux saying
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26: 1-11
On Ash Wednesday, we reflected on what true fast is. Today we are into what true worship is. First God asks the worshipping community to reach back and embrace their story of origin. God even gives the faith community their story line (Deut. 26: 5-10), lest they forget their useable past.
Lest We Forget
It is a story of an immigrant ancestor during economic hard times, how he went to Egypt with his family for survival. It is a story of an alien in a strange land, one of pain and anguish.
It is also the story of an enslaved people who cry to God for liberation, a story of hard labor and long hours of back-breaking work. The caring and mighty God led them out of slavery into freedom.
This is the foundational story of God saving God’s people from their oppression. This is a story of God’s call to the faith community to find its core identity and voice as a pilgrim people and travelers on a journey.
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor.” Deuteronomy 26: 5
Another translation reads, “My father was a homeless refugee.” We can infer the name and story of Jacob emigrating to Egypt. Without a particular name, the story becomes the story of worldwide migrants in search of food and shelter.
God brings us to our senses by jolting us into remembering our identity. We are a pilgrim people embarked on a shalom journey. The biblical call is to live out our lives as sojourners and pilgrims on earth. God wants us to be pilgrims at heart who can understand the hearts of immigrants, migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in the midst of us. That is, those whose daily life is often characterized by
- dependence on the kindness of others
What is God Asking?
God is telling you and me, “When you become a success, rooted, and secure, do not forget the moments of pain in your story. Connect it with the pains of the vulnerable people in your midst, anonymous or named”:
- the poor
- the hopeless
- the grieving
- the unemployed
- the sick
- the weary
- the poor
- the trafficked victim
- the migrant
Move beyond self-centered ritual to other-centered worship and mission. While doing so, celebrate the bounty of God in your life.
Not long ago, a United Methodist Women member from Minnesota sent me a picture of a bird named “sankofa” looking back over its shoulder, with its head turned around behind it. It is a mythical bird from West Africa, especially from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. The sender tells me that this bird is an eternal reminder to “reach back and examine your past before you move forward into the future.”
Let us embark on our Lenten journey. Let us create “little Easters” for others. Let us keep the memory of our abiding past alive, hallowed by Migrant and Refugee Jesus who keeps on expanding his table fellowship to all who believe in him, Jew or Gentile.
In this shalom journey, let us witness to Christ today by being his beloved community, and by creating beloved communities.
To journey without being changed
is to be a nomad
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon
To journey and to be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim.
(Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening)
My fellow pilgrims, let us call out to each other, when the going becomes tough, encourage each other, make this Lenten journey a transforming one, and find our home in the Risen Savior.
*Glory E. Dharmaraj, Ph.D. is director of Spiritual Formation and Mission Theology for the Women’s Division.