Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Biblical Paradigms

One of the archetypal stories of the Bible is the recollection of the Israelites' experience in Exile. Cut off from the Promised Land given to them by their God, the Israelites have been defeated in battle and separated from their cultural and religious roots. They are faced with some uncomfortable questions - What did we do to deserve this? Where was our God when this happened? Will we ever get back to our homeland? How can we maintain our distinct religio-cultural identity in a foreign land?

This sense of being lost and far from home is personalised in Jesus' tale about the Prodigal Son, who after having left home far behind realises that returning may not be easy. Both of these stories may have some resonance for a theology of homelessness. Where is God for the homeless person? What does it mean for someone to be alienated from their roots, to have lost connection with their own foundations? Too many, like the Israelites, are forced into this position through violence and oppression. Refugees all around the world also understand this experience.

For the Israelites, the Exile doesn't have the expected fairytale ending - not all of them returned home and many who did found it incredibly difficult. In some ways, it is a story that is still being played out. For those who share an experience of homelessness or forced disconnection, we might ask what Salvation might look like for them...

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