The phrase "rebel pilgrim" came out of a time in my life about a decade ago when I was looking for a simple way to express my emerging worldview. The "rebel" part of it stems from the idea that we (those of us now engrafted in the story of Yhwh and Israel through Christ) are, in fact, rebelling against the "normal" order of the world. We are revolutionaries, often standing against very popular and seemingly good ideals that make the world "work" better. In fact, we rebel against many perfectly sane and practical ideals because of our conviction that the created world is moving toward full redemption. We rebel because we do not settle for sane and practical when "thy Kingdom come" is still on the table.
But this post isn't really about being rebels, but about being pilgrims. We are the people of the journey - wanderers with a destination in mind. We are rebelling as we march through the eschaton (last days). The journey of our people began in the Garden, but the last days of our journey began at Golgotha. Since then we have been without a home, and yet paradoxically also with one. Like Israel with the mobile Tabernacle on what they viewed as an eschatological pilgrimage, the house of God goes with us as we move toward the time when the Temple replaces our tent - when God's presence is rooted in our homeland. It is my view that Israel was allowed to live this metaphor for us in the real hours and minutes of history so that we could more fully grasp the better day that is coming - the day when we not only know in part, but in full.
All of this creates an interesting understanding of the idea of home. I believe that our home is to come, yet there are tastes of home here and now. We build, or more accurately, the Trinitarian God builds our home as we go. Our pilgrimage itself is our home, but a better, more real home than this one awaits. I can grasp that we are not fully home as a people, but as an individual it is harder to believe in practice. I want to have a home - to settle - to turn my Tabernacle into a stone building, but I cannot afford such heresies because my people don't settle here. (I should say that I am coming to see more clearly that it is perhaps more dangerous to settle in a time or mentality than in a place. My redemptive theology is emerging to begin to see that God makes good of all things. i.e. matter matters to God a lot more than I used to realize. I have a hunch that the stuff of this world will be around in the fulfillment of all things, but that is another topic for another day. Just to say that perhaps it is more accurate to say we should not settle for the "now" vs. not settling for the "here.")
All this mental regurgitation stems from my recent trip back "home." Deb and I were in Las Vegas for a few days and arrived back in Ohio late last night. It was a good trip. We were able to see lots of friends whom we miss very deeply. I also miss the topography and the city itself tremendously. The mountains and blue sky and neon buzz. I was overwhelmed with sentimentality for most of the trip. It was strange to be back in the city that I knew so well after spending the last four years in two new places. Every street, almost every building, held a memory from ten years of life lived in one city. It was emotionally overwhelming, yet the city itself (along with our friends) had changed a little. Not much - just a little. The city sported a few new buildings with a slightly less fearless vibe. More than in Ohio, you can physically feel the uncertainty of the economy in Las Vegas. My friends were the same people but a little older with older children a few more gray hairs. Both they and the city I called home for most of my adult life had both done the unthinkable - they had continued to exist without me.
I was struck with a subtle sadness as I realized that Las Vegas wasn't exactly home anymore. To be honest, maybe it never was. Maybe rebel pilgrims don't have homes the way others do. The "home" that I desire Las Vegas to be is too lofty of a thing to ask of any city or community. As we came "home" to Cincinnati last night, it was with fresh eyes. This is home now...and it isn't. It is as much home as Las Vegas was from 1995-2005, or as Southern California was for a few years. It's as much home as Columbus was in high school or Russell, Kentucky was when I was a little kid. All of these places are my homes...and all those places are still there. Some of the people I love are still there in those places. But the "now" is not there - my old "now" I mean. The "now" has passed. The truth is, the closest we ever get to a real home in the eschaton is where we live right "now." Home (the Tabernacle kind of not-yet-home) is where the grace of Yhwh lets you pilgrimage today. So in a very real and tangible and joyous way, Cincinnati is now home.
But I cannot settle here any more than I can settle anywhere else. (Again, I used the word "here" but mean "now." Argh. I'm starting to write like an academician.) Home is where (and when) Yhwh reigns fully. At times He reigns in part and those are the times I taste my future home like a nibble of filet mignon on an hors devours platter. But the entire feast is coming - it has been coming since the Cross and Easter and it comes closer every day. And if we can grasp it, it is true to say that The Resurrected One is bringing it to us more than we are traveling toward it. He is coming from our future home with eternal home at his disposal. As St. John might say, a new heaven and a new earth are on a collision course until the day heaven slams fully into our current "now" creating, for the first time ever, our true home out of the broken stuff of our pilgrimage:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:1-3
Our journey started in a Garden and the last days of it started at Golgotha...but here we see where it ends: at home, in God's repurposed City.