Jesus' place sharing and our part in it

The Relational Pastor, part 14

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 1, 28, 9101112, 13, 15.

Last time in our exploration of The Relational Pastor, we looked at Andrew Root's definition of salvation as a relationship with God in union with Jesus the "place sharer." This time Root unpacks the concept of place sharing as it applies to Jesus, to his followers as they place share with Jesus and to pastors who are called to be "curators" of spaces and places that facilitate place sharing.

Jesus as place sharer

As Root states, "place sharing is the very state of Jesus' being" (p161). As the ultimate place sharer, Jesus shares the "place" (life) of every human. Root borrows this idea from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke of Jesus as fundamentally a Stellvertreter and the state of Jesus' being as Stellvertretung (p161). Making reference to the thought of both Bonhoeffer and T.F. Torrance, Root elaborates:
Jesus is fundamentally a place sharer because he simultaneously shares in the place of God and humanity, because his person is the place of divine and human union. Jesus place shares God and humanity. Jesus creates a new place in his person, a place through his person for humanity and God to share in each other's lives. Jesus takes residence in the space between God and humanity, making in-between spaces the place of his presence. 
But his presence is not just any in-between space: it is in the spiritual space between persons, for Jesus is the person with the two natures, making the state of his being in-between, creating a space/place for sharing. So the location of God's presence is in the place of one person in two natures, in the one person that shares in the divine and human. Jesus' body is the temple of God; his body is the shared place of God's presence, the place of the divine and human relationship (pp161-162).

Our calling to be place sharers with Jesus

Yielding to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who unites us to Jesus, we enter with Jesus into his life and ministry of place sharing with God and with other people:
Jesus has given his body to us to share in (Luke 22:19). Communion is the tangible act of taking Jesus' body into our own, of participating through our bodies in the divine and human union. Having been given Jesus' body, we now, through the Holy Spirit, share in his person in our person. Our body too becomes the temple of God's presence (1Corinthians 6:19-20). As temples of the Holy Spirit we are a new creation; we are now the location of God's presence in the world. We are the place where God is through this relationship.
Note, however, that being the body of Christ is not a "solo act." Rather, place sharing with Jesus is fundamentally communal--the sharing of persons who, together, are in relationship with God and with other people. Together, we are...
....the temple of God's presence, because God is a relationship of three in one, and Jesus is a relationship of one person with two natures. It is here that we [together] are truly human, witnesses to the new creation, as we participate in the new Adam (1Corinthians 15:20-28) (p.162).

A pastor's calling to be a curator of place sharing spaces

Pastors then are called to facilitate this place sharing among persons and between persons and the triune God. They do so by providing... spaces through facilitation of locales [places] that allow people to share in each other's needs, to see each other as persons. No pastor has the power to create these places. They are spiritual; they are outgrowths of the work of the Holy Spirit manifest in the mystery of persons seeing each other face to face...encountering each other. We cannot force these places, but we can curate them. When people indwell each other through relationship a new place is created between them.... about providing the spaces for people to share each other's place, confessing that in sharing each other's place, Jesus is present between us, allowing us to love him as we love our neighbor. 
We as pastors are not called to be incarnate, to do the work only Jesus as the second person of the Trinity can do. But we are called to be place sharers, to be attentive to curating places where the sharing of person can happen, and in all of this to confess the presence of Christ--the person who is the relationship of the sharing of two natures (p163).
Those reading this who are pastors and ministry leaders have much to think about here. How do you feel about having your role defined as a "curator of spaces and places for place sharing"? You might ask yourself and your team the following questions, seeking answers in community:
  • What do such places look like? What would be their primary characteristics?
  • What would I want to see happen in such places? (think face to face encounter of people and of people with the triune God)
  • Am I open to what the Spirit might do in such places, even if it was beyond the scope of what we had pre-programmed? Am I willing/able to "switch horses in mid-stream" in order to follow the Spirit where he is leading?
Food for thought!