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Wandering on Purpose
The Son do still move...
Can I confess something to you?
You have to pinky promise not to tell anyone.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve gone too far.
Let me back up. I remember the first time I said I wanted to be a preacher.
I was in elementary school. I told my parents. While my mother likes to tease me about the fact that (after a monumental detour) I ended up a preacher after all, I’m not sure how seriously anyone took me at the time. I know I didn’t take it that seriously. And I know this because 9-year-old me told my pastor. He told me the first step was reading the Bible. Like… the whole thing. I decided he had to be high, because there won’t no way I was doin’ all that.
Don’t get me wrong—I was a Bible Quiz Champion a couple times over by that point. That’s half the reason I figured I ought to give preaching a shot. But sitting down and readin’ that whole big ol’ Bible? That was ludicrous. So I just went back to going to church when my mother dragged me there and dominating Bible Quiz competitions when it was time to show folks what a real Christian looked like. I left the preaching to the people who had the time for all that other stuff like reading the Bible. But I knew my stuff.
Fast forward a decade and a half, and I was still (at least nominally) Christian. But my questions had grown louder in the years since I was given that ridiculous homework assignment. Plus, my day job was boring and I had plenty of time to read. So I figured I’d finally read the Bible. And I did just that. In 46 days, I read from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. I did it. I was finally the perfect Christian. I was back in church semi-regularly, and I’d read the Bible. First class ticket to heaven secured.
That was a little more than a decade ago. The euphoria of being an Official Bible Reader has long since worn off.
The questions that led me to the Bible have returned—some of them with newer caveats and loops. Sometimes I cannot find convenient answers. And it is in those times that I feel as though I’m approaching the Bible most faithfully. Yet, those are the times I wonder if I’ve gone too far.
This newsletter borrows its name from a famous, nineteenth-century sermon by a formerly enslaved preacher named John Jasper. In that sermon, he argued that—despite scientific evidence stating otherwise—the sun did in fact move. He used scripture (Joshua 10:13, to be specific) to support that thesis. I’ve been fascinated by that sermon since I first heard of it in seminary. Because he was right. Not in the way he thought. The earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. He was very wrong about that. But the sun is moving. The sun do move. And we know that because people kept investigating. They kept asking questions. They kept observing. In the process, they’ve grown closer to the truth.
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In the years since I first read through the Bible, I’ve learned a similar lesson. The Son is moving. As far as we can receive it from our vantage point, the revelation of God is not located at a fixed point. It is alive and active. That’s why God seems to be walking among humans in the garden in some stories and roaring like an overwhelming thunder in others. That’s why God’s names and titles are consistently being expanded. The more we experience, the more we realize we have to learn about the Creator.
I suspect that’s part of the reason that we are told that Jesus of Nazareth (north side representer) was born in Bethlehem (south side ‘til he… still too soon). It’s hard to pin down the origins of that which existed in the beginning. Jesus’s story takes us all around the shores of Galilee. He makes pilgrimages to Jerusalem. He’s always moving. Never planted. If you are going to follow Jesus, you cannot stay in the same place. You will experience things that change the way you see the world.
Following Jesus is wandering on purpose.
It is a commitment to sharing life with others in a way that transforms your life as much as it does theirs.
It is a willingness to leave the familiarity and comfort of your own home and trust a God of uncanny promises as you make your way to a new land, just as Abraham did.
It is the decision to leave the place of your bondage—even if it means finding yourself in the wilderness—just as Moses did.
Following Jesus is an implicit acknowledgment of the inescapable truth that the Son do move.
The moment I stop wondering if I’ve gone too far is the moment I’ve stopped following the Son.