I vividly remember when we first went to live in London in 1999. What was known as the “dotcom boom” had created a feeding frenzy of deals, and the big law firms were hungry for energetic young lawyers, which was the description I fit at the time. Entering those gargantuan firms was literally like walking into another world that you didn't need to leave—and often couldn't leave—for days at a time. Some firms even had their own restaurants, beds and gyms! It was a world designed to help you forget about any other reality or commitments you had outside its frantic walls.
We hear a lot these days about living in a “post-truth world” where reality is constructed by those with influence and access. A prominent feature of the recent US Presidential debates was the real-time “fact-checker,” which casually acknowledged that the highest public servants in the land treat truth like putty to be molded according to the desired message. But not much is new under the sun.
In the Gospels we see Jesus shaking up the perceived realities of his day—people’s views of what God was like and what made the world tick. Today we’re focusing on the moment in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus nears Jerusalem, where he’s about to complete his mission. As he reaches the final staging point near Jericho, the nature of the kingdom he is ushering in starts to crystalise, and it poses an uncomfortable challenge even to those who know him best. Jesus challenges them and us to see beyond the illusions of the world as we’re told it is, and to immerse ourselves in the unseen reality of God’s rule—the truest and most enduring reality of all. Human revolutions tend to displace one world with another by rejecting or destroying what already exists. Instead, Jesus mixes the reality of heaven into the present world to save it and restore it.
He gives us a model for how we can engage with our context today, by sowing the seeds of heaven into the world as we find it. Paul Sawrey talks a lot about our vision of being both “the church gathered and the church scattered,” and in mission we express God’s heart to rescue and restore the world. One of my great privileges as leader of St Paul’s is to have a front row seat to the many different ways we as a church are joining in with God’s mission in the world, both in NZ and to the ends of the earth. I’m constantly blown away by the energy, vision and leadership that exists in our congregation for mission. Whether it’s hosting international students throughout the week, supporting Nvader combat sex-trafficking in Thailand, the great work of Feed my Lambs in Kaitaia, our students helping the ultra-poor in Cambodia, Dianne Bailey’s work in the Philippines, the recent Concert for Congo aiding maternity care in that region, and our developing partnership with the Red Cross in support of refugee families in Auckland.
As a church we are stepping into Jesus’s call to plant seeds of the new world in the soil of the present one. If we’re not careful, we might even start a revolution!
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