Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Third Sunday after Epiphany


January 26, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, I noticed how little I really know about the place Jesus made his home–the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a place home, why we choose the places we do, and in what ways they are and are not "home" to us in the truest sense of that word. Take a look at the lessons I've paired with this week's scriptures and then find my collect and reflection after the lessons.


Spirituality & Psychology

Mapping God's Promises

Karoline Lewis

Article about the relevance of geography to understanding the story of Jesus’ life and ministry

Note Lewis’ observation that Jesus chooses to go to the land of two tribes, each of which are under foreign occupation and each of which has a history of being oppressed by foreign empires.

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History & Culture

Race & Place (David Leong) -- A Review

Bob Cornwall

Ponderings on a Faith Journey

A review of Leong’s book: Race and Place, in which he discusses the relationship between geography and race divides and describes steps toward counteracting the ways geography has reinforced racism

Note how Leong broadens the conversation including not only historical redlining and white flight but also fleeing to the city.

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Current Events & World Affairs

How Megacities are Changing the Map of the World

Parag Khanna

TED talk

TED talk about the ways in which society is reorganizing away from traditional borders and along lines of “infrastructure and connectivity.”

Consider how our increasing connectivity can impact global inequalities and reduce rivalry, as Khanna describes.

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Spirituality & Psychology

Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love–A Review

Cherice Bock

Christian Feminism Today

Review of Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s book, Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love, in which Kim calls for a reimagining of Spirit that can help us bridge divides across the boundaries of very different cultures.

Consider Kim's ideas about how chi and jeong can help us become liberated from cyclical oppression and move toward true justice and freedom.

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Why does the geography of our lives matter?


When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." Matthew 4:12-16

I just helped our younger son move into his dorm room after a semester abroad. He goes to the same college my husband and I attended. As we walked into his dorm, I remembered it from decades ago. I once dated someone who lived in that dorm. I had only the vaguest of memories, but they were clearly there, encoded in my body. While I knew the exact room my son has was not the one once occupied by a former boyfriend, I did find myself wondering who else might have lived on that hall, or even in that very same room, during the era of my college years.

We live with a certain unmistakable amnesia about the geography of our lives. Old roads we have taken, rooms we have occupied, restaurants we have patroned, are buried in our memories like sediment. Sometimes we excavate them; more often we do not. And they just remain there as silent informants of our present and, to some extent, determinants of our future.

Anamnesis, one of my favorite words from the discipline of Christian liturgy, translates, "making the past present." It is the heart of our eucharistic theology. In a simple meal, prepared and taken ritually, we make Christ present again.

In today's scripture lessons, Jesus makes the past present again by chosing to live in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. Why? For one purpose only: healing. He goes to places that had known the oppression of foreign occupation and all the attendant wounds–turning against one another, losing faith in oneself, losing hope in a God who is present. He goes to those places to change the story. To make them places of light, of hope, of joy as they had been for people long ago.

Why do we choose where we go, where we live, where we expend our limited energy and resources? Is it to heal? To change? To make new? What if our choices contained such beauty?

In today's first spirituality lesson, Karoline Lewis underscores for us the importance of reading scripture with some understanding of the theological choices embedded in the geography of the stories. Rarely is there movement from one place to another in scripture that is not laden with historical import. In today's history and culture lesson, Cornwall summarizes David Leong's broad reaching analysis of how American cities are built on the sediment of our race story. Not only white flight from the cities but also the more recent flight to the cities bears the marks of race privilege that reinforces historic oppression and material exclusion of communities of color. Leong argues for geographically informed Christians prepared to upend this story. In today's current events and world affairs lesson, Parag Khanna gives a TED talk in which he offers one way in which this sort of transformation is beginning to be evident globally, as we replace the primacy of borders (be they neighborhood or national borders) with connectivity through transportation, energy and communications networks. He observes how this shift is changing the way we think about ourselves and others. And in our second spirituality lesson, Bock summarizes feminist theologian/scholar Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s reconceptualization of the Spirit, using the Chinese concept of chi and the Korean concepts of han and jeong to describe a radical kind of solidarity we can practice in the face of oppression that seeks to divide us.

Georgraphy is in our bones. We prioritize places that are "home" to us in all sorts of ways. While this can be soul nourishing, we can also use our affinity for the familiar to shut out those who live on the other side of our borders, be they literal or imagined.

Becoming curious about the sediment that lies deep within us, those buried truths, like the ones Jesus learned–likely as a young boy–about Zebulun and Naphtali–can help us make choices about how we connect to others in the geography of our lives. Choices that can reach far beyond known borders, pointing us toward a new frontier where our solidarity as human beings compels us forward.