Today’s entry in The Celtic Book of Days is titled “On the Move for God” and continues with the idea of wandering or walking with God; of being a pilgrim. I have to admit that the idea of being a “pilgrim”—that somehow this world isn’t our home—really bothers me. From what I can gather, it comes from two misunderstandings—that “heaven” is our real home and an unrealized eschatology. I would like to quickly address these in reverse order.
As most of you are aware, I’ve written a series about eschatology (the “end times”; the first article’s here) and, to put it bluntly, it’s not what we think it means. The “pilgrim” imagery we have in the New Testament (most notably those given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10), is not about “going to heaven”; it’s about the change of covenants. It deals with the transition between the full completion of the Old Covenant (that was still going on during the New Testament time; Hebrews 8) and the full establishment of the New Covenant. Thus, the followers of Jesus in the first century were “pilgrims” or “wanderers in the wilderness” between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This transition was accomplished in 70 CE when the Temple and city of Jerusalem was destroyed, hence ending the Old Covenant age.
The second misunderstanding is the idea of “going to heaven”. As Tom Wright is fond of saying, “Heaven’s important but it’s not the end of the world.” For some reason, we’ve bought into the lie (yes, lie) that God’s going to destroy creation and start all over; that the sole purpose Jesus came was to “save us from our sins” so we can go the “heaven.” Therefore, since God’s (supposedly) going to wipe out creation, we don’t do anything about climate change or poverty or AIDS or any host of other global issues. As one preacher criticized, “Do you polish brass on a sinking ship?” The idea here is that creation is the sinking ship and that “heaven” is the reality. This paints a very different picture from that of the Bible. It’s one that reeks of gnosticism, the Greek idea that “matter” (the material world) is “bad” and “spirit” (the immaterial world) is good. But as we see in Revelation 21, “heaven,” and this should be understood as God’s part of creation, actually comes “down” to our part. In other words, “heaven” and “earth” become one.
What I think would be a better understanding of “pilgrim”—and would fit better within a Celtic worldview—is someone going throughout the world where God’s Realm hasn’t been planted yet and work there. For as we see from Jesus’ stories about God’s Realm (Luke 13.18-21) or from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 47.1-12; cf. Revelation 22.1-5), God’s Realm starts in our world and will one day fill the entire creation.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC