Friday, December 27, 2013

TJ2: Luggage Theology

Yesterday's blog was all about the "practical" preparations for my upcoming journey to the Holy Land -- mostly about packing my bags. I promised that today I would focus more on the theological aspect of the trip. One thing Asbury Theological Seminary has taught me, however, is that theology is intensely practical. So perhaps the packing of my luggage was a good place to start this reflection, and I want to take a moment to revisit it.

Check-in, carry-on, and personal
item ready to go!
First, ponder the significance of packing three bags. Those who are into Biblical numerology know that three is the number most often used to represent the nature and fullness of God, who is depicted throughout the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even in the Old Testament this number is associated with God, especially when he is interacting with humanity (take, for example, Genesis 18:1-5). Three bags are the ideal for any trip involving use of a commercial airline: one large bag to check in and reclaim later, one smaller bag to stow in the overhead compartment in case the larger bag gets lost, and one personal item (e.g. purse or briefcase) for things that will be utilized during the flight. 

Not to take the analogy too far, but the check-in bag is like God the Father (who is sometimes mistakenly viewed as "watching us from a distance"): he has absolutely everything I need to get through life, but sometimes I push him to the periphery of my life and forget to go to him as often as I should. (Maybe I put him in the baggage hold because my life is just too crowded to squeeze him in...something else to ponder. Have I put weight and size restrictions on God?) Sometimes, when we've been apart for a while, it is hard for me to recognize him in my life...rather like staring at the baggage carousel waiting for my bag to appear. The carry-on bag is like God the Son, who seems much closer and is more easily approached, the very image of his Father but come to earth in the flesh to experience life in the same way we do...flying along with us in coach, and just as cramped there in that overhead compartment...yet without sin. (I will be stuck in the center seat from New York to Frankfurt, and I am still grumbling about that, but I have a feeling my carry-on bag will not grumble.) And the personal item is like the Holy Spirit, who dwells in me and guides me moment by moment throughout my daily wanderings, giving me specific gifts for specific this case, a Kindle reader with enough material loaded on it to keep me occupied during nine hours of flight and seven hours of airport layovers.

Anyway, that's enough luggage theology for one blog. I was just trying to make the point that God shows up in all the little things we think and do if only we have eyes to see. For theology is simply the way we think about God. Everyone is a theologian to some extent because everyone has some opinion about God -- even atheists are theologians

Tomorrow, more spiritual stuff!

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