By David Chan, reprinted from the Salt & Light Australia Daily Devotional.
“The people you work with are just people you were thrown together with. Y’know, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family. But probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk round on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.”Tim Canterbury, The Office UK, season finale
Our workplace is where we walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day. The thing is, these days, that “bit of carpet” is not in the office but in my home (well, “bit of floorboards,” if I’m being a metaphor pedant).
But looking out the window of my home office (by day, bedroom by night) I find myself noticing the comings and goings of people around the neighborhood. My neighbors aren’t just a theological talking point – “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-37); my neighbors are real, they’re local—their bit of carpet is five meters away!
Even before COVID, the importance of “place” in the Bible was starting to gain attention. Driven by a late-modern explosion in globalization and mobility – as experienced by myself as an individual, and by movements of entire people groups – ”place” was being commoditized; becoming something that people just moved through.
But the biblical picture offers a different vision. “Place” is important. It is far more intrinsic than we recognized. Eden, Egypt, Canaan, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Golgotha and Zion situate the biblical narrative in a place; it is, quite literally, grounded. Time and again, God is not described as a force “out there” (*waves hands*) but as someone who dwells with his people in… a place. In creation God dwelt with Adam and Eve in the garden, in the Old Testament God tabernacled in the tent and the temple. And now, after dwelling bodily with for 33 years in Galilee and Judea, Jesus now dwells, by his spirit, within us.
What does it mean for God to be here then, with me, on this bit of carpet? Honestly, I’m not sure – but I think it’s something we need to think through; something we need to be intentional about.
Because I’m acutely aware that “the people I’m thrown together with” are now of two kinds. My workplace is in two places. There remains those whom I work with – sharing the same bit of carpet two days a week (and the same bit of screen pixels on other days). But I’m also now thrown back together with my neighbors; situated and sharing this piece of neighborhood with them.
Our changing circumstances have created new places. And if places matter, then where are those places for me? It’s something that I’ve been feeling I need to pause and reflect upon.
For reflection. Acts 17:24-27
When we read Paul’s address in the Areopagus, he describes how God doesn’t need us to make temples for him; after all, God made the world! But in evangelizing to the Athenians, he has this interesting turn of phrase – God marked out their appointed times, and boundaries of their lands, so that they would seek him.
Where is God marking out today so that people would seek him?
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”