A Wandering Aramean was My Father

So who was your father? “A wandering Aramean”? Most of our forefathers (if you go back far enough in our family trees) were “wandering Arameans” of sorts, weren’t they? Exiles, nomads, immigrants, transnationals, wanders, et al. Until today we are a world of wanderers’ children.

Days before his death, Moses instructed the children of Israel proper protocol once they occupied the Promised Land (without him): “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, . . . you shall make response before the Lord your God [in worship at the sanctuary], ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous’” (Deuteronomy 26:1-50). 

“A wandering Aramean was my father [and my mother]."

Not so an inappropriate a confession to articulate in worship before God. “I am a wander and the child of wanderers.” 

Truth is—thanks to sin’s fracturing we are a race of wanders—rudely cut off from one another—not only fragmented geographically, but technologically isolated from each other in existentially empty cyberspace—wandering electronically from relationship to relationship, unfulfilled and sadly too often unloved, exiled at times from even our own biological kin and more like strangers to even our dearest friends. We are wanderers—all—through our allotted days, seeking for a remedy (of what who can be sure?), healing perhaps for our peripatetic spirits.

James A. K. Smith, the Calvin College philosopher, rattles off the dispirited lyrics of Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues” (quoted in How Not to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor 66-67):

I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes,
Unique in each way you can see.
And now, after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me.
But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be.
I’ll get back to you someday soon, you will see.
What’s my name; what’s my station?
Oh just tell me what I should do. 

“A wandering Aramean was my father.” But that's no reason for angst.

For the God of some of our fathers and mothers is the same God who promises their wandering children: “And the LORD has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised” (Deuteronomy 26:18). “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

Mercy for the wanderers. A community for the people-less, the dispossessed. Exiles once. And still, wanderers to be sure. Yet embedded in our deepest intuitions, in promises ancient but fresh, remains the premonition that one day we will cross over—into Promised Land—and at last, discover Home. Next door to God.

“A wandering Aramean was my father.” No more.