Christianity 201

October 28, 2012

A Biblical Understanding of ‘Place’

Gen 15:7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

Jer 29:7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Over the weekend, I have been immersed in the book The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Zondervan). The book deals with life in monastic community as experienced in 2012. In particular, chapters are titled:

1. Why We Eat Together
2. Why We Make Promises
3. Why It Matters Where We Live
4. Why We Live Together
5. Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill
6. Why We Share Good News

The verses quoted above introduce what turns out to be the longest chapter in the book, a study of place or location which was fundamental to Israel. This is but a very brief excerpt:

For so many of today, church is a place we go to on Sunday, just like work or school or home are the places we go every other day of the week. Where we live often has little to do with where we worship. This makes it difficult for us to see how we’re called to make our whole life true worship in a place.

But incarnation interrupts us. To confess that Jesus took on flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood is to see that we are invited to dwell in our places and grow up into “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Eph. 1:23). As the letter to the church at Ephesus demonstrates so well, the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is within us to overcome the “principalities and powers” (6:12) of our present age. A culture of hyper-mobility is not greater than God’s plan to redeem the world through Christ’s body, the church. But Ephesians is equally clear that this power is made manifest in the peculiar way of engagement that we learn from Israel and Jesus: “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that … you may be able to stand your ground” (6:12-13).

If we pay attention to the conquest stories of Israel, we learn that God’s people did not gain their promised land through cunning or military might. They left Egypt through the Red Sea because God made a way out of now way. When they came to Jericho, it was God who made the walls come tumbling down. Israel’s greatest hero, David, won his monumental battle against the Philistine giant, Goliath, by refusing the royal armor and trusting God to use the simple slingshot he carried as a shepherd boy. Over and again, God makes clear that Israel isn’t in charge of securing its own place in the world. “The Lord will fight for you,” Moses says; “you need only to be still (Ex. 14:14).

This standing in place is the posture that the New Testament exhorts the church to maintain. Jesus told Peter, the rock upon whom he promised to build his church, that he should put away his sword in the garden of Gethsemane. The violence of this world’s kingdoms would not be the means by which God would establish the peaceable kingdom here on earth. Jesus’ refusal of worldly power is not, however, a passive submission to the status quo. Jesus stands before Pilate, just as the martyrs would stand before authorities after him, neither backing down nor succumbing to the ways of an order that is passing away. “Fight the good fight of the faith,” Paul exhorted his young disciple Timothy (6:12), recalling that Timothy had made the same “good confession” Jesus made while testifying before Pontius Pilate. It was confession made not so much with his mouth as with his feet. In the power of the spirit, he stood his ground.

~Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Awakening of Hope, pp. 101-103

1 Comment »

  1. This is a link to my formal review of the book at Thinking Out Loud

    Pingback by A Snapshot of Monastic Living 2012 Style « Thinking Out Loud — October 29, 2012 @ 6:16 am | Reply

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