Friday, May 07, 2010

Church Newsletter

This small article was written for my church's newsletter, because – as is clear below – my colleague Simon (the senior pastor) who more often than not writes the 'Pastor's Post,' well and truly has his hands full at the moment.
As if moving across the world wasn't enough, this weekend the Wards move into their third Australian house.
In less than a month, Anita and I head overseas for a holiday. Then after Anita heads home, I stay on to walk 900km across Spain.
Last weekend the church went camping. As well as the necessities – like good coffee – we had some luxuries, but by and large the people who went to Triple C left most of their everyday lives behind.

For God's people in the Old Testament, going to a particular place – usually the temple – gave people a special experience of God's presence, which is why the psalmist says "blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." As a faithful Jew, Jesus himself also participated in the feasts and festivals: at the camp service, John Armstrong shared with us from John 7 about a time when Jesus addressed those who had also left their everyday lives behind to journey to Jerusalem. Not only that, but Jesus also started his public ministry with an extended time of solitude in the desert, and continued during his ministry to regularly withdraw to a quiet time and place.

Despite the scriptural precedent and Jesus' example it's easy for us to mistakenly think that now there are no special places anymore, there is no need to go anywhere or to get away. In fact, the opposite is true. Certainly it's true that God's dwelling place is no longer (just) in Jerusalem, but – through Jesus – in the lives of his people. And it's also the case that we celebrate Jesus as our passover lamb every time we meet, and not just once a year. It's not that there are no special places or times anymore, but that every place and time is special: "God with us" can be the experience of every person, regardless of history or geography.

So, even though Christians don't need to go to Jerusalem (or any other place) for passover (or any other festival), it's still fitting for us to think of ourselves as a pilgrim people, wherever and whenever we go: that, after all is the point of the great commission in Matthew 28. As for camping, moving house, and trekking – these activities help remind us that God's people are always on the move. 

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