Sometimes we try to diminish it, but physicality is important.
Again and again as we read through the sacred texts of Judaism and
Christianity we find a lot of importance given to physical things like
places and bodies.
Often folks talk about how God is everywhere and how we as individual
believers don't need to be in any one place to commune with God.
Well, we think that is mostly true. However, whether we look to our
own individual experiences or we look to the stories we find in
scripture, we see that while there is not necessarily any one place
people must go to commune with God, there are certainly places where
it seems to the presence of God is "more present" or more available or
more accessible or something.
And specific physical locations and specific aspects of our own bodies
seem to be important to our own spirituality and how we interact with
one another and with ourselves and with God.
As we look toward the Hebrew text for the week, it is no secret even
today how important the physicality of the dirt and stones and olive
trees of Israel or Palestine or Judea or Hebron or the City of David
are. For the Israelites, who were once slaves without their own
"place," the land is critically important and God-given. The
political stake of land protection and domination mixes and mingles in
this text with the spiritual connection that they feel for these
places. Truly, their geopolitical interests arise from their
understanding of what God has done for them. David's kingship over
these places is real because "the LORD, the God of hosts, was with
him." Think of the importance of place as we approach the birthday of
our purple mountain's majesty and amber waves of grain.
The psalmist writes in praise of Zion, the place from which God's
protection emanates. It is intriguing to us that it is the
expectation that it was the physical glory of Zion that would bear
witness to the next generation about the glory and power of God.
These praises are written, like 1 and 2 Samuel, as a reflection during
the reign of David, a uniquely unified time in the political history
of Judah and Israel. But the unity, the good times, the developing
infrastructure must have held great promise.
And then, in the gospel of Mark, we see Jesus returning to his
hometown. Many of us probably have feelings about "hometown." Maybe
hometown is a place of refuge and comfort. For others, it might be a
reminder of the things and places of the past that we choose to
escape. Jesus has been in ministry with the apostles and has been
teaching and performing miracles outside of his hometown. Perhaps he
was expecting to arrive in his hometown to be recognized for "Who" he
was. But they were sort of astounded by the teachings he brought, as
if he was somehow out of bounds as a carpenter and hometown boy to be
speaking and acting in the way that he was.
In Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, he does not directly
address place, but he does talk about receiving a special revelation.
This sort of revelation via cosmic journey was sort of "in vogue"
among Jewish writers in the era in which Paul wrote. It was through
this revelation that Paul claims to embrace his weakness as a human,
to endure criticism, hardship and persecution because in Christ, he is
We are bodily creatures attuned to the places in which we dwell...our
work, our home, our hometowns, our holy spots. And we wonder, is God
equally present in all of these places? Do we invite God to be
equally present in all of these places? Or does God "belong" somewhere
specific in our lives.
What places seem sacred to you? Why?
Where are you at home? Is God's presence known there? Why or why not?
God of sand and trees and rocks and air...
Guide each of us as we discover, and return to,
the places we find and have found you.
Help us as we attempt to respect and rest in Your Presence
in us and in the buildings and people and mountains and rivers
where you have made yourself known.
Help us as we attempt to follow you.