is the name of New Wine’s article in Multnomah’s monthly news paper. This year I”m writing the column. The first of the articles appeared in this month’s issue and I thought I’d repost it here. Hope you enjoy!
“We Are Where We Are”
This summer I read The Good Earth, a Pulitzer-prize winning novel by Pearl S. Buck. The novel recounts the saga of a peasant family living in China in the early 20th century. Although properly a story about the family, the novel is also, as the name implies, an ode to the land on which the family lives and from which it makes its living. Wang Lung, the main character, has shared the qualities of the land he farms just as surely as do the plants he grows. He is of the earth. He is as he is precisely because of the town nearby where he sells his crops, because of the great family of the town which determines fashion and belief for the town, because of the religion of his father and fore-fathers which he also follows. In short, just as an experienced farmer can tell you about that season’s growing conditions by looking at the harvest, so one can learn all about Wang Lung’s home and community, his people’s history and convictions just by meeting him.
Sometimes this particularity, the fact that we really and truly belong to a place is obscured by familiarity with each other’s places. The Washingtonian and the Oregonian feel that they know each other’s home and experiences and environment. But when we are faced by people of a different place or culture, we are reminded of a truth: who we are is largely where we come from. And this affirms for us: even when we come from similar places, we are shaped by our particular place. Because I live on 87th street and not 77th street my life experience is different. The sun comes at me from a slightly different angle. The sounds of the main street nearby sound just a little differently. The people I see on my walk to and from work are different than they would have been if I lived elsewhere The differences from street to street are minor but myriad. My community, my environment and myself are different because I am where I am when I am.
Our communities, our particular communities, shape our reality in ways that link us to them inextricably. I think Christ shows us that this is how he means for us to live because he himself lived within (though never limited by) the particularities of time, place and culture. I enter this Fall semester at Multnomah not exactly sure where I’ll be one year from now but convicted and resolved to concentrate on the present – both the present time and that which is present to me now where I live. Investing in the here and now is a way to love well, as Christ did, and to love individuals, as Christ did. So, whether your time in Portland and at Multnomah is slated to end at a particular date or is simply TFN, I invite us (myself included) to understand ourselves as inextricably, mystically connected to the here and now and to, through Christ, love one another and those around us generously in the particulars.