Wednesday Word: Places

Several years ago my good friend Jane and I took a road trip from our homes in Montana down to Salt Lake City for a seminar entitled, “Preaching the Land,” or something like that. While I can't remember the exact title of the event, I do remember that it revolved around land and geology and how to incorporate that into sermons.

I won't go into all the details of those several days other than to say that land and geology are more important than you might originally think – remember all those times that Jesus was out on the water, or in the wilderness, or on a mountain. The words he speaks are important, but the places in which he speaks them are also important.

I was reminded of that this past week as I flew with Joelene and four members of J2A out west. I was reminded that place and geology are important as we flew by 14,410' Mt. Rainier and the massive post-eruption crater of Mt. St. Helen's. I was reminded of it as we gazed at Mt. Hood from Portland and visited the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge. I was reminded of it as we drove the coastal highway of US 101 and walked by Haystack Rock, the third largest inter-tidal monolith in the world. All of these are the land of where I'm from and they are a part of who I am.

But Jesus didn't speak to an empty landscape; Jesus spoke to the people who lived in those various places. He spoke to sea-going fishermen and land-locked shepherds. He spoke to tax collectors in the cities and to farmers out in the country. I was reminded of that as we arrived home early Sunday morning and saw our teens reunited with their parents. I was reminded of it at a carillon concert where people gathered together to hear beautiful music. I was reminded of that during a 4th of July party where people gathered and hugged, ate and laughed, played games and shared stories.

I have lived in a variety of places during my time as a priest – from the Rocky Mountains of southwest Montana to the river valleys of southern Oregon to now here on the east coast. Through it all I keep coming back to this: while the place shapes the people, it is the people who make the place.

I enjoyed my trip out west to some of the places that shaped me; but I'm also very glad to be back home among people who do their best to exhibit the love of Christ in the places around them.

The place of Saint John's shapes its people, but it's the people of Saint John's that makes the place. May we be reminded of these two important pieces as we continue to move forward in the reopening/regathering process and as we continue to work to invite people into this special place where they can both be shaped by it and help to make it a place worth being.



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