An exile in Paradise
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a somewhat loose relationship with navigation. Maybe it is for this reason that I feel some degree of sympathy for the Emperor Penguin who took a wrong turn and ended up over 2000 miles away from the Antarctic on Peka Peka beach in New Zealand. The poor creature has been attracting worldwide attention, and although it is feeding itself from the sea, there is a real danger from thirst. Penguins usually ingest snow so that it melts in the stomach giving them water. So far this disorientated creature has not worked out that wet sand does not function the same way – exile can be an uncomfortable place.
Walter Brueggemann, surely one of the most poetic and incisive theologians of our era, has dwelt much on the image of Twenty-First Century Christians as exiles. Like the Old Testament exiles, we find ourselves abroad in a place where we don’t belong, with the needle of our spiritual compass constantly swinging towards an unseen North. Like those exiles, it is not new theological truths that we need but rather we need to feel differently about the old ones. A careful reading of the exilic prophets reveals very little by way of theological innovation – rather theirs is a poetic plea to shift the heart’s centre of gravity back to the God of the ages of ages.
The world will doubtless watch to see whether this particular exile survives in a strange land. What does it see, though, when it looks at us other exiles, I wonder?