Archive for August, 2012

A Theology of Place

This summer Sandy and Nathan and I took a road trip.  Don’t worry, this is not a “this is what I did on my summer vacation.” But, I did want to tell you about one part of our trip. Along our way we took time to go to New Orleans and visit my friend Ray Cannata.  Ray was on my staff when I was a pastor in New Jersey. He left the New Jersey church a few months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.  His purpose: to replant a church there.   I believe God planned his church to be a sign of resurrection hope amongst the rubble.

Ray did not go into a city as an outsider. No, he became a New Orleanian.  To become connected to the city, he had an amazing idea.  He decided he would get to know the city through its food by eating at every non-chain restaurant in the city.  (Yikes. There are over 750 of them! Note the picture of Ray eating his “last supper,” at the last restaurant on his list.)  In the process he managed to gain 25 lbs (and thankfully lose them as well!), and meet thousands of people.  But, Ray did more than that.  He learned the unique features of this city to which God called him, how the gospel applies there, and how to love the people of his city.  He developed a theology of place.

Now of course, Ray got that idea from Jesus.  Jesus didn’t enter Galilee as a tourist.  He was born there.  He called the place home, and he loved his community. Why did he do this?  It is the way of God. God came into the neighborhood and loved us.  He wants us to do no less.  Of course, there are many bad things in New Orleans.  They have the highest murder rate in the country, for example.  But, God calls us to love and serve where he has placed us.

So how should all this impact us?  First, I was jealous of Ray when I saw his love of the city.  It made me want to invest even more in my neighborhood and my city. (Just how many restaurants are there in Coral Gables?) It also made me wonder what our city would become if God’s people really loved their city and invested themselves there.  Second, it reminded me that our God is a God of place.  The Lord sent Abraham to a special place, and he does the same with each of us.  If you are in Miami, God has a purpose for you here. He wants you to live for him, love your neighbor, and learn to serve and benefit your community. This is what it means to be followers of Jesus in Miami.  What is your theology of place?