Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tensions of Place


I was reading through Bruce Kaye's article, "Church of the In-Between God" in the most recent Journal of Anglican Studies, because I have been interested in the apparent Christian tension between "place" and "mobility." That is to say, there is a tension between establishing yourself in a place, and the Christian ideal, which says we are "citizens of another Kingdom." How does place fit into the context of knowing Jesus called his disciples to leave their place in order to preach the Gospel?

Having a sense of place is important for many acts of Christian service. One will struggle to be hospitable if they themselves are a stranger to a place. Hospitality presupposes that a person is settled in, and established enough to welcome others. If we are constantly moving, it is difficult to be hospitable. Also, forming communion and relationship is dependent upon staying in a place for a while. In the context of preaching and teaching, these things become much more relevant and powerful for those who listen if the preacher or teacher is familiar with the listener's place.

And though place is a vital factor for establishing ministry, God does not always seem impressed with place. Abraham was called from his place. Jesus was always walking, and moving. The Gospel writers would have us believe he only stopped moving to pray and eat. Paul is always moving.

It would almost seem that being too firmly in place is a recipe for idolatry. One can make his land, family business, race, country, etc., into something more than it really is. The question is if geographic immobility leads to a depreciation for what God did at Pentecost, and Jesus' concern for the "ends of the earth?"

How do Christians find a balance in that tension in their lives?

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