Longing for home (part 1)

Photo by duron123. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by duron123. Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

This may be a distinctly un-American thing to say, but our family has never been much for camping.

That’s not to say that we’ve never been camping.  Good friends encouraged us to go, and we’ve enjoyed some wonderful vacations in beautiful places: Sequoia, Yosemite, Lassen, the Coastal Redwoods, Pacific Rim.

It’s just that setting up and sleeping in a tent was never the fun part of the trip. Poles would break. We had to fight constantly with leaky seams. Air mattresses would slowly deflate, and in the morning we’d find ourselves lying on the cold, hard ground.

And nobody wanted to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, no matter how much you needed to.

Bundling into the car at the end of one trip, my wife turned to the kids and asked what they missed most about home. We were all longing to sleep in our own warm and comfy beds, and to have the use of clean bathrooms. But my son, who was 7 at the time, gave the most memorable two-word answer to my wife’s question. What was he looking forward to the most? “Modern technology.”

I think of this when I read Paul:

We know that if the tent that we live in on earth is torn down, we have a building from God. It’s a house that isn’t handmade, which is eternal and located in heaven. We groan while we live in this residence. We really want to dress ourselves with our building from heaven—since we assume that when we take off this tent, we won’t find out that we are naked. (2 Cor 5:1-3, CEB)

It’s an appropriate metaphor for a tentmaker. There were, of course, many opulent homes in Corinth, but many people also lived in tents. Given the tensions of social class in the Corinthian church, I can’t help but wonder how Paul’s image for resurrection here would have played out in that congregation.

But considering his Jewish heritage, Paul’s primary reference may be to the tabernacle upon which the divine presence would descend during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings, the tent that would later be replaced by a glorious temple. One might also think of John’s language here: the eternal Word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14).

God’s glorious presence dwelt with his people during their sojourns in the wilderness, and walked among us in the person of Jesus. And now, in turn, we who are the body of Christ, whether as tents or clay jars, are those who are to manifest the life of Jesus in our earthly bodies (2 Cor 4:7-11).

In doing so, we groan as those who long for home.  More on that in the next post.