Ash Wednesday Reflection
by Jess Rigel
Though the role of the health of the land and our relationship with the places where we find ourselves is upheld throughout Scripture, too often Christians misunderstand why such a relationship is important. After all, Christianity was never rooted in one particular spot, a fact that is largely responsible for its rapid spread. Salvation through Christ was based on relationship with Christ—it was and is free from the bonds of geography.
Jesus himself spent most of his ministry as a homeless vagabond, constantly traveling and encouraging his disciples to do the same. Yet the reason this travel was so controversial is because Jesus had the audacity to transcend the time and space of sanctity— worshipping wherever he went and healing whenever he felt like it. The contemporary Church tends to forget that Christ’s wanderlust didn’t function to remove the holiness of the temple; it instead functioned to remind us that to God, every place is holy.
In a world that has become increasingly mobile, the theology of place is no longer one we discuss in our churches, and too many church leaders have bought into the idea that people matter, but places don’t. We have allowed our places to become commodities, and it is high time that the Church re-rooted itself in physical space and acknowledged how place affects our spiritual identities.
Because love of place stirs awareness of community and awareness of community exposes inequality, a refined sense of place leads to a refined sense of justice. We cannot redeem a land that we don’t deign to know. So this Lent, get to know your place: befriend a farmer, go for a walk outside, spend time vista gazing. Know that the land you hold is the land God loves, and that you have been called to redeem it.
Prayer: Creator God, help us to be present enough to our places that we might act as your agents, extending grace to all Creation. Help us to recognize that we cannot claim to love our communities until we recognize that the human community is only one element of the whole. We cannot claim to love our communities until soil, plants, animals, and the very air we breathe are recognized as worthy of our attention and your redemption. Liberate us to experience the sanctity of where we are. Amen.
Jess Rigel is a third year M.Div/M.A. student at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she studies youth ministry and has been especially active with the Farminary project. Prior to studying at Princeton, she taught eighth grade Language Arts for several years, and served as a community gardener through the PCUSA Young Adult Volunteer program in both Cascabel, AZ and New Orleans, LA. She is passionate about food justice, adolescents, and literature, and she also enjoys hula hooping.