Sojourn: What’s in a name?

June 6th, 2024

(4 minutes to read)

A week ago Sojourn was established as a church.

What is a church, you ask?

It’s a local expression of the most glorious reality in the universe, the church of the living God. The Bible describes the church as a family (God’s household, his children), the people of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, God’s bride, and a city upon a hill (1 Tim. 3:15, 2 Cor. 6:16, Eph. 5:32, Matt. 5:14), all redeemed through Jesus Christ. That’s you, Sojourn! The church is not a building; it is a people. It is you and I called to belong to Christ, to trust and obey him, to follow him. 

But what is Sojourn? 

Our name holds an important clue to our identity and mission. We’re on a journey. It’s in our name! The Bible frequently describes the church as sojourners and exiles, pilgrims on a journey with Christ (e.g. 1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:1-12:2). It is a company of redeemed people who recognize that this beautiful but broken earth is not our ultimate home. We are just passing through. 

In this post, I want to paint a brief sketch of what the Bible says about sojourners and their journeys. And ultimately about the One whose journey of love and mercy brought him down, down, down to our earth, to redeem and reclaim ruined sinners, to bring us back to our Father, and set us on our journey home. 

– Sadly, the first journey in the Bible is Adam and Eve’s journey away from God. They decided their plans were better than God’s plan for them. Paradise is lost. Communion with God is broken. Out of the Garden. This is disastrous. Sin leads to wandering, lostness, flight. That’s what we are apart from Jesus. But even then, God promised that he would send a Rescuer. That’s Genesis 3:15.

Genesis is a book of sojournings. But the most famous of them all is Abraham’s journey from modern-day Iraq after God called him: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1). Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was going,” but simply trusting in the Living God who called him (Heb. 11:8). This was a radical break from all that he previously knew. Much of his life is a journey of faith, trusting in the God who had promised (Rom. 4:21). Flawed as he was, he followed…

– Isaac is told not to leave the land and to “sojourn” in it (Gen. 26:3). He is told not to abandon the gracious promises of God for a better home. He too is flawed, but God’s grace keeps him. Jacob, his son, is a complicated character. I will share more of Jacob’s story at our summer retreat.

– Moses sojourns in Midian as a fugitive because of his murder. There God meets him in the wilderness (where he was hiding) and commissions him to rescue Israel from Egypt. He goes with them on the journey “by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light” (Ex. 13:21).

– These experiences shape the people’s spiritual identity. Even after they inherit the promised land, because of their sin, they recognize that each one is a spiritual sojourner like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (e.g. Psalm 39:12, 119:19).

Jesus is the One who journeys down from heaven to be with us. He tabernacles, dwells, journeys among us (Jn 1:14) so that we can see his glory. He is full of truth and grace. In his incarnation, He himself leaves heaven to become a sojourner with us, the God-man sojourner par excellence.

– He calls a group of disciples to be with him, become like him, and do as he did (e.g. Mk 3:14). He calls them, and enables them by his grace, to leave all behind to follow him, even on his journey to Jerusalem, to the cross (e.g. Mark 8:34-38). Every Christian is a disciple on a journey with Jesus. Jesus’ journey to the cross and to the tomb, to death and then to life is what makes all of this possible. Jesus rescues us from darkness, from the debt of our sins, from bondage, to light, forgiveness, and freedom.

– Paul himself is a sojourner like his Master, Jesus. He goes on epic missionary journeys for the sake of his Saviour. His epistles are a manifesto of sojourning theology. He says that our bodies are like earthy tents (2 Cor. 5:1-4) and counsels us against entanglement in earthly affairs (1 Cor. 7:29-31). This is because our citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). It is our heavenly citizenship that calls us to become good earthly citizens in the neighborhood, marketplace, and in the city.

– The writer to the Hebrews unpacks the theme of sojourning in Hebrews 11:1-12:2. This article is getting too long, but you should seriously go read the whole chapter right now. Christ’s sojourning community are a bunch of strangers and exiles who are seeking and desiring a better country, that is a heavenly one.  This is our destination. We are not travellers to nowhere. We know where we’re going. We are going with Jesus, to Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the place that he’s preparing for us, even the heavenly Jerusalem. It will be the joy and beauty of all the earth, when everything is restored as we make our dwelling with him, and he with us. What promise, what a destination!

For reflection and discussion: 

– How and where do you see yourself in these stories?
– Is there a character or a story that you especially identify with?
– How does this colour and shape your understanding of our church’s name?
– How does this motivate you to follow Jesus?
– How does this impact the way we live as a church community?