Saturday, March 3, 2012

Home is the earth

(A guest post by Josh Carpenter for this tenth day of Lent).

Home is the earth. I don't mean in the "planet earth is our home" kind of way. I mean in knowing the land the way that a farmer knows his or her land. The farmer knows what the land is capable of, where the tricky spots to mow around are. The farmer knows where there are rocks that need removing before plants can grow and where the dangerous areas and wild animals are. Perhaps most importantly, the farmer knows the legacy of people that lived on the earth before him/ her. Places become reminders of people, events, shared lives, sad yet fond memories, and all the other connective tissue that makes one feel at home. The earth makes space for us to have a home.

It is in this way that the earth formed my ancestors' identities. They worked it with their hands, and it sustained their lives despite their fiscal poverty. The earth made it possible for my family to gather around my great-grand uncle's farmhouse with banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and upright bass and dance on Saturday nights. The earth made space for my family to exist, space for cousins, nieces, nephews, wives, matriarchs, boys, and old men to come away from their labor and be a family. There were many a night that saw the Davenport clan gather at that house... until the Great Depression, TVA, and the post-Vietnam recession made it impossible for farmers to live off the earth anymore. The fields became lakes. The farmhouse became a run-down shack. The farmer became a factory worker. The family drifted apart. The music stopped.

In Tennessee I did not appreciate the earth. I did not know how even though every generation extending back in time to the furthest recesses of anyone's memory have testified to the importance of the earth. I had a great cloud of witnesses that tried to tell me how important the earth was, but I was captivated by the glitz and glamour of the American Dream. I left home in search of that dream. Now all I see of that dream is madness and despair. It is madness, for it disrespects the earth and those living on it. It destroys community and eviscerates one's humanity. It is despair, for at the end of all things it has nothing of substance to offer. I am dreaming another dream now, or rather I should say that I am looking for a Kingdom not built with hands. The Kingdom comes as earth, as a human, as one who preaches a right relationship between human, earth, and God. The Word becomes flesh; pitches its tent with us; dwells with us in farmhouses and flooded fields, in Tennessee and in Texas; and shines in the darkness of the American Dream. The American Dream cannot overcome the Light of the Earth. I did not know how to live with the earth in Tennessee. By God's parental instruction, I am learning how to live with the earth in Texas. By God's incarnation, I am learning how to live with God and others on the earth. By God's Spirit, I trust that the earth will finally be home for everyone. The music will return, for God has called the earth home and invites all of us to come away from our labors and dance.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." -- Revelation 21:1-5

Josh is a seminary student in Texas. He grew up in East Tennessee during the time following the collapse of agrarian life and amid the ensuing social/cultural collapse left in its wake. 

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