“The Word became flesh and pitched tent among us” John 1:14
Tents have been in the news a lot in the last year.
Two famous but very different tent dwellers died. Colonel Gaddafi, a brutal and vicious dictator, was killed in brutal and disturbing circumstances at the hands of some of those he had oppressed. At the other end of the spectrum, Brian Hawes, the peace campaigner who set up camp in parliament square, died of lung cancer. Two very different men, but only one of them was photographed embracing a British Prime Minister.
The Arab Spring saw tents pitched in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as a wave of protests swept across the Arab world. Tents then popped up in New York as the Occupy movement was born. This quickly spread across the world. The response of St Paul’s Cathedral to the tents on their doorstep was the subject of intense media scrutiny (if you’ll pardon the pun). At times the media seemed more interested in the St Paul’s response than in what the protestors had to say.
In the Lincoln area, other tent stories received less media coverage. Homeless members of the BeAttitudes community in Lincoln were living in tents. Members of the fledgling luminous community pitched tent at Taizé and Greenbelt. Lincoln had its own Moroccan Market, complete with tents and camels.
2011 was the year of the tent.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus, the Word of God, “became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth”
Most translations replace’ pitched tent’ with ‘lived’ or ‘dwelt’, but ‘pitched tent’ or ‘tabernacled’ is a more literal translation. This takes us back to the time when Moses led God’s people in the wilderness. They built a tabernacle, a large tent, around the Ark of the Covenant. The Shekinah, God’s glory, dwelt in the tabernacle, and when God moved, the people moved, re-pitching the tent wherever God led them. This was a people on the move, a pilgrim people, following a God on the move, a pilgrim God. God’s dwelling place needed to be light and portable made of canvas, not stone. Only then could they follow God’s glory where it led them. John’s gospel tells us that we have seen this glory in Jesus, the word of God, and we are called to follow him. In Jesus God meets us where we are and calls us to follow him.
But where would he lead us? This is another way of asking the question the protestors asked outside St Paul’s, WWJD - What Would Jesus Do? Perhaps a better question is WIJD -What Is Jesus Doing? Or even Where Is Jesus Dwelling?
Jesus has pitched his tent among us. God is with his people. He has met us where we are, rich and poor, powerful and powerless. He has pitched tent with the protestors, and he has pitched tent with the bankers. Have we noticed him? Have we recognised his glory? Glory obscured and yet revealed in mud and blood and flesh? Are we ready to pull up our tent pegs and follow where he would lead us, wherever that may be?