You’ve probably heard it; I can almost guarantee it.
It’s been called the most overused piece of music in history. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is an iconic composition, comprised of twenty-five movements using medieval imagery and poetry to explore themes of fate and fortune.
But you probably wouldn’t recognize it if you heard one of the twenty-three middle movements. Most are obscure and unknown to a popular audience, but the opening and closing movements – O Fortuna – have been used in countless commercials, campaigns, and scores. Like I said, you’ve probably heard it.
But have you really heard it, if you’re only familiar with a single movement of a multi-movement piece?
Each of the twenty-five movements of Orff’s masterpiece look, sound, and feel different as they move from beginning to middle to end, but it’s all Carmina Burana. Only a few measures of the piece have become memorable, but it’s the movement throughout the entirety of the composition that makes it a masterpiece (if you have an hour and four minutes, check out this recording. It’s terrific.).
When you think of movement, you might think about Carmina Burana. Or you might think about airplanes and transit. Or you might think about dance.
Movement is a necessary and vibrant reality of life – to be alive is to move.
I believe in a God who is living, which is to say I believe in a God who moves – a God who migrates! The scriptures unveil the story of this movement-God who is revealed through three migrations.
The First Migration is the Movement of the God who inhales and exhales.
The Scriptures’ opening words proclaim that “In the beginning, God!”
In the beginning, before anything else happened, God was.
God filled the expanse.
The Poet of Beginnings does not suggest we imagine anything, in the beginning, but God.
In the beginning, when God began to create, there was inhale (Go ahead and inhale. Feel the rise of your lungs and the contraction of your belly.) and there was exhale (Slowly let it out – as your chest sinks and your stomach settles, call out a name, sing a note, breathe a breath).
When God began to create, creation was called into existence with voice and life was breathed into the first humans. This is the first migration of God, the movement of the God who inhales and exhales.
The Second Migration is the Movement of God to God-in-Flesh.
The opening chapter of John’s Gospel is a work of mystic-poetry, describing Jesus as the Word that spoke creation into existence, the Word that was both Life and Light. That Light, John writes, came down to the people of God, making a dwelling (a tabernacle, a roaming outpost of the holy – light, life, beauty) in the common place of their neighborhood.
Studies of human movement will often talk of the dual factors of push and pull. A person is pushed from a place, often because of less-than-desirable conditions, and pulled to another, because of a hope or promise or hint of something better.
This second migration of God, though, reverses that push/pull. The Word moves from a place of God-dwelling to the place of dust and dirt. The Light migrates into darkness.
The Third Migration is the Movement of God as Wind and Whisper.
Acts 2 records the outpouring of God’s Spirit on the people of God.
Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
This movement, the third migration, is a return to the God who breathes, yet in this movement God is described as the essence of breath itself. Breath is a movement that happens naturally, often without thought or conscious intent or noticing. Yet it is movement.
Throughout Acts, we see the Spirit moving outward beyond the bounds of Jerusalem following Jesus’ mandate to go outward to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. God-as-Wind-and-Breath beckons the early Jesus followers from the upper room to the ends of the earth. This Wind and Whisper of God is a force of movement and migration.
The church has struggled for centuries to adequately name the experience and portrayal of God-as-immigrant painted in the scriptures.
Early on the church landed on the idea that there’s one God but three persons – Father, Son, and Spirit. This three-yet-one reality has been described with the Greek word perichoresis.
peri: ‘around’ like perimeter or periscope
chorei: move, advance, go, or to dance like choreography
This is our God, a God of Movement, a dancing God.
Remember that God is not an eternal throne sitter in some palace far away, but a God who roams untamed in our world. This is a migrant God we follow, one who crosses boundaries and hops borders and moves down and out and in and up. This is a God who cannot be put in a box!
The story of the Scriptures – and our story – is a story of movement. We’re not to long for the olden days but to move ahead into the woven-together world God is making. The end of the story is not Eden, but Eden surrounded by a beautiful city, a new city.
God’s moving, and we’re invited to join in on that movement!
I put these thoughts together as part of our exploration of the Immigrants’ Journey at Open Door.