Bread – Sojourning

March 28, 2014

Readings for Friday, March 28, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 47:1-26; 1 Cor. 9:16-27; Mark 6:47-56; Psalms 88,91,92,95


Once in a while a word appears in a reading which is rare but meaningful. In today’s reading from Genesis today, that word is “sojourning.” “And Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘the days of the years of my sojourning are….’” Gen. 47:8-9

Pharaoh asks Jacob how long he has lived, and Jacob answers that he has been sojourning.

The Hebrew word which is translated “sojourning” means living in a temporary abode or an inn, being on a pilgrimage, being a stranger or an alien. (from “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament,” Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB), Ed. Zodhiates 1990)

If you think about it, “sojourning” is the perfect word for how a Christian leads his or her life. We live in a temporary body and in temporary places. We are on a pilgrimage as we come to faith and then grow in our walk with Jesus throughout our lives. And we are living as an alien in the world, as an ambassador of the kingdom of God.

It seems further that there are two ways we can answer a question about the number of days of our life. One is to say that we have been living in ourselves, in our moment, with our purposes and our objectives, tuned to ourselves. That is to say, we have been living in a stagnating condition, marking time until death. The thing about this answer is that, to the world, stagnation does not look bad because it is often accompanied by great wealth, position, and power, all those things which the world deems important and none of which we can carry with us in death. It is living for death.

The second way we can answer the question about the number of days of our lives is to recount not only that we have been on a journey, but that we are still on the journey. It is a journey through life, not around it, not over it, and not in spite of it. It is a journey through life alive. It is a pilgrimage where we know that every place we stay, whether it is a shack or a mansion; every meal we have, whether it is some thin soup or a sumptuous feast; every position we hold, whether as a janitor or as the president of a billion dollar company … we are sojourning. We are progressing through life going from strength to strength, maturing in wisdom, strengthening faith, embracing hope, accepting joy. It is living for life.

There is a final aspect of the concept of sojourning which strikes me as built into Jacob’s answer, but which is not obviously there. When we sojourn to a place, don’t we most often do it with a companion?

Who is our companion? If we are living for death, chances are it is the person who stares at us in the mirror. If we are living for life, chances are it is the person who stares at us from the cross.

How old are you? The years of my sojourning are …. Gives meaning to the answer, doesn’t it?


© 2014 GBF


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