Photo by Duboix on Morgue File.
As a wise person once quipped, A place is only a place if it is found on a map.
Okay, I just made that up. I know of no wise person, or otherwise person, who quipped, stated, suggested, opined, bloviated, declared, announced, proclaimed or spouted the above quotation.
But, it does make sense!
Places are funny things. They are much like people. They exhibit their own personality and peculiar characteristics.
This weekend my family has returned to a place we called home for a few years. It does feel a little odd staying in a hotel in a place you once lived.
Some places, once you leave them, feel odd and strange when you return to them. They almost have the feel of an ex who views your presence as awkward and unwanted.
Other places, however, when you return to them, feel as though you never left them. They are like an old friend or a well-used, well-worn quilt that is as comfy now as it was when you were a child.
I saw an article online earlier about strange names for places. Here are a few: Toad Suck, Arkansas; Bummerville, California; Nowhere, Oklahoma; and Idiotville, Oregon.
For a few from across the pond: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll llantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales; and Clock Face, England.
In my home state, Alabama, there are several rather odd place-names: Boar Tush, Burnt Corn, Frog Eye, Intercourse, Lick Skillet, Scratch Ankle, Slick Lizard and Smut Eye.
Yes, you can Google said places and find out for yourself these are really names of places!
I am sure each and every one has quite an interesting, and in some cases, provocative story behind the names.
There are lots of adages about places too, such as: Home is where the heart is; There’s no place like home; One place is as good as another; I’d rather be any place but here; Everyplace is someplace that someone wants to see, visit or get the Devil out of Dodge. Okay, once again, I made up the last one!
Jesus was no stranger to places. He traveled many places throughout the course of his earthly ministry. Too bad they didn’t have frequent sandal miles in those days!
We know Jesus’ home was in Nazareth. But in Mark 2.1 we read, And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
It seems, by this time, he had relocated the locus of his public ministry to Capernaum. But why? Was it simply a matter of location? Capernaum was located on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Was it that this location afforded Jesus a broader base of ministry? Did it afford him more advantages than did Nazareth?
Not only do we know that Nazareth was Jesus’ home, we also know that it was not exactly receptive to his message. We have the episode found in Luke 4.14-30, where Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll and meets visible resistance. In fact, Jesus even references his work in Capernaum to those in Nazareth. Even more, they pushed him to the edge of a cliff and tried to push him off! Talk about a cliff-hanger!
In Matthew 13.58, we are told Jesus did no miracles in Nazareth because of their lack of faith. I have always found this a remarkable statement. Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, could do no miracles in his hometown of Nazareth . . . not because he lacked the power or the ability; but rather, because of their lack of faith!
Let that sink in for a while.
Places were important in the life and ministry of Christ.
Later, places would play a huge role in the ministry of the apostle Paul. Some places, such as Philippi, were very affirming of him and his ministry, while other places were hostile.
It is interesting to reflect and mediate on how God uses, not only people, but places to mold us and conform us into the image of Christ.
As many of you, I have been many places. I have lived several different places as well. Some of those places have left an indelible mark on me, thankfully I can say mostly a positive one! Other places, I barely remember, if I do at all. Some places I would love to revisit, other places I would just soon to forget.
Either way, God uses places to mold me to his will and purpose in my life.
My part is to look around and ask what God is doing with me, to me where I am? What is God’s purpose for having me here, right now? What did God teach me in my previous home? Do I glean any direction or purpose to how God is moving me (literally!) place to place?
God spoke to Abram in the land of Ur and told him to leave that place and head for a new place.
Places are important to God. And, what I have found, if we will think about it, we will see how God has used certain places in our lives to accomplish certain victories and goals.
The question really becomes this: are we paying attention?
When God is at work, no place is just a place.