Locus is the Latin word for place, and it retain is current meaning, “a particular position or place where something occurs or is situated.” I wish today to begin talk about locus, or plural loci, or place, in the New Testament in particular the gospels, and also in context of this particular position or place of the chapel and where it is situated.
Space is something different. Space is more relationship between or within places. It can be defined by a horizon, or by a constructed building.
Both terms are very relevant to modern thinking about what is a physical church, what does it look like, how it is used, how are they attended etc. Trevor and I have thought a lot about space – instead of talking about a building a property, or even a convention church, think of it dynamically as a special area dedicated to emerging uses.
Of course both terms relate finally to values. That is problem with term property – it can offend us to think of building dedicated to sacred purposes merely in terms of real estate values. Many other values come into play – whether we talk about Palestine at time of Christ’s ministry, or this chapel as site of our identity and mission in the world today.
This theme of space might seem strange to discuss on mother’s day – a time of persons, intimate relationships and families. It might seem strange in terms on focus on Christian teaching of person of Jesus, and relationship with followers and disciples when he lived, and those who followed after his death.
Yet it is suitable certainly for our group attendance today. We can focus on the surroundings, as well as each other.
I would say it can be an overlooked theme – we tend to see Palestine as background context to a universal story focusing on person and work of Jesus. However closer we look at biblical text more we can see how particular places – towns, waterways, deserts, roads, as well as the main edifice of Jerusalem – how much these feature.
In a previous talk given January 3 years ago I think spoke of much of Jesus ministry – how he travelled continuously length and breadth of his beloved kingdom of Palestine – was a pilgrimage. As king of his people he was visiting known places, of human and spiritual significance. He was paying honor to well-known places and customs – the baptism of John the Baptist in river Jordan is a key example of this.
There’s actually a body of literature on this theme of locus or place in New Testament. When the old insights was being published, I wrote a number of regular reviews, and two books were on the theme, in the bible and implication today. They offer a very detailed picture of Jesus the traveller, the pilgrim prophet, the nomadic king and expound very much was is being introduced today, and I will find these and summarise later.
Jesus was claiming his authority as son of god and lord of his people. His kingdom in the first instance was on earth, and defined by boundaries that exhausted for centuries certainly from time of David. Jesus was inheriting and transforming or renewing the legacy he inherited as king of the Jews, in lineage of David.
Christian faith is historical – its foundation came from a place and time.
All this is well known or should be. The kingdom of god, in the gospels, we can say was embodied – it was very much on earth. We can use metaphors about the kingdom within, or heaven as ultimate kingdom, but the foundation stone of faith both the first century and today by implication we can argue was very much on and of this earth.
One thing add – much of travelling, maps, journey, was on irregular by ways highways – not to Jerusalem – city was prominent square edifice – Jesus mostly in fragmented regions.
I think also noted before was porous nature of boundaries- how Jesus welcomed visitors, such as Samaritans, from nearby regions, and indeed we know addressed led a movement that extended even while he lived into the empire, and was the basis of the early church.
Thus the focus of Jesus ministry – advocacy – was to a particular place and people. He was not damning or excluding other peoples – however his first ministry was very much focused in established a kingdom of justice, peace, and renewal, in the ancestral home of Palestine. Obviously the boundaries physical location of his work do not fully explain its nature – but they are an essential component
Now all humans live in areas, or boundaries, or regions. These can be called many things – states, nations, regions, homelands. Human from early days have managed to divide the tapestry of earth and its features into homes for different peoples. There is nothing wrong with boundaries – especially when they co-exist in peace. Warfare and conquest of one tribal people over others has been a cause for huge instability and power.
We cannot escape boundaries – we are all involved in constant negotiation organisation of the space of continent into places area of habitation.
There is then this tribal ancient sense of homeland for Jesus to attend so much on the land of his own people.
There is much much more could be said on a reading of gospels in terms of embodied kingdom. Much more that can be come back to on this topic of space, loci and our spiritual and earthly selves.
I will shift to today, to this place, and space. The chapel. I will not attempt to explain that vast shift – how teaching expounded in and largely for one place can relate to us today.
Today merely observe start some things about this place. Can be known as many things gps coordinates, street address, name – it has some history, also more history remain – it has spectacular enclave, in terms of changes of town, of mature tall gums. Today it is more a bushland setting than ever.
In recent years we have tidied this place up – the floor, new floor, kitchen area, painting, furniture. One might ask why tidy up place if not always large attendance, The answer is many people do use it, users that would not come if it was not attractive. Build it and they will come, said the basefilm film, Field of Dreams. And in a deeper sense – and we are only making conceptual brushstrokes today – but build it and that still small voice will also come. A special place is never empty. Hindus regard their temple as a place for god, indeed a home and body of god. Perhaps we could continue to learn something for such traditions.
Places of beauty, peace and art matter. They are foundations, even hubs of the world outside. A place where people meet each other, speak and prayer sensitively to each other, engage in community, creative and arts events. It is also a place where, apart from the every day, we can begin to hear and seek guidance within and from afar., and begin to deeply relate to the world beyond, this surrounding area, its history, its people alive today and in ages past. How we are to live learn relate in this part of Australia, great southern continent, in this place, and space, two millennium after Jesus first ministry on earth?
A place can then become in a deep sense the context of faith, its foundation, its hub.