A Theology of Places
July 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
It is hard to believe that a wedding, two funerals and a burial service have taken me to three different states in three weeks, not to mention ‘stops’ in places like Cleveland, but that is the story and I’m sticking to it (it also happens to be true).
In the past three weeks I’ve been to Indiana, Nashville, and Miami. In Miami I preached the memorial services for two friends. In Indiana we buried one of those people. In Nashville I performed the wedding ceremony of one of Katherine’s nieces. All three trips were exhausting, but beautiful. The stop in Cleveland afforded my first glimpse of Lake Erie (pictured), and of an airport filled with relics from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Greensburg, Indiana provided the beauty of an unspoiled ‘heartland,’ hometown folks in a church and cemetery in the farm country, and some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever enjoyed, along with an introduction to Indiana Cream Pie, baked by a woman that was sophomore at Milan High when the real Hoosiers won the state basketball championship. Nashville was a reunion for Katherine – and me – of family and of friends. Only in Nashville (it seems) can you find live country music in the airport. There, we enjoyed the magnificent hills and topography of that lovely city. And what can I say about Miami other than, how beautiful – the Biscayne Bay, the friends, Shorty’s Barbecue, time with my Mom. All this, and not to mention returning to Baltimore each time.
In theological circles we sometimes speak of a ‘theology of place,’ the idea that the place in which we minister is vital to how we minister in a city or community. Paul would open his letters, as he did to the Ephesian church, with words like, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus…” (my emphasis). There was nothing pietistic about Paul – He was a realist that understood the Gospel’s power in the context of our actual lives. No one more than a dear friend in ministry, Jeff White, has taught and embodied this to me.
I entitled this post, A Theology of Places, however – because in Christ we celebrate a God that finds us where we are, not only geographically, but also spiritually, emotionally and relationally – many places. This is exactly what we discover in tracing His ministry – He always seems to enter into peoples’ lives at the moment of their greatest need, in cities, in homes and in the dark of night. Wherever He appeared, there was need. And it occurred to me that this is because Jesus understands well the geography of our lives, and our souls, and that He never shrinks back from entering into the moments we most need Him, regardless of where we may find ourselves to be… even when we are hiding.
Friends, this is good news.