This is the text of my Minister’s Message for The Vision which is Kaniva & Serviceton Shared Ministry quarterly news letter, for December 2018-February 2019.
In my travels out to an evening Bible Study group a few weeks ago I suddenly discovered myself in South Australia. I was not surprised to find myself in SA, that often happens when you live in Kaniva or Serviceton and you all know that better than me. What surprised me was that there was no road sign to indicate the change of state. No big red one facing a big blue one, no smaller blue and gold one facing an orange one, not even a matched pair of little white ones suggesting movement between districts. My sat-nav lost half an hour, and the cement cylinders of Victoria turned into the steel and concrete “stobie” poles of SA, but otherwise there was nothing to say I had moved into an area of authority governed from Adelaide rather than from Melbourne.
The Kingdom of God is a bit like this. Sometimes it is obvious where we are, whether we are in or out: Kaniva and Bordertown have different state flags flying, and you know the exact point that the Western Highway becomes the Dukes Highway, even if it’s always the A8. At other times you just get a sense that something has shifted by observing the signs that are there, which are not the signs you were expecting to see, which you will see if you have wisdom behind your eyes.
My point is that The Church is not the capital city of the Kingdom of God; it is the service town and the border town. We as the people of God actually live in the border lands, the frontier of the reign of God, knowing that at times we are in one realm (perhaps when we are in worship and fellowship) and at other times in another realm (perhaps when we are engaged in everyday events). This is okay; this is actually what God intends for us as the ambassadors of the Kingdom: the Bible clearly reads that Heaven is the place of completion and fulfilment so it’s okay to be a Christian in the world and not be in blissful adoration of His Majesty 24/7. What we must not forget is that, like Serviceton, (named after Mr Service rather than its function), we are to serve those who are coming into the Kingdom. Church is the “welcome home” at the gate, the “have some water and a nice sit down” in the lounge, the “ladies this way, gents that” next to the rock next to the highway. And because The Church lives at the edge of The Kingdom sometimes we find ourselves in another state.
Much has been said about Christianity, about Christians, and about our formal institutions in Australia in recent months. The government launched an inquiry into our caring ministries and we were found wanting. (The fact that non-Church organisations were seen to be just as guilty is not the point, although it is worth noting.) Stories of hurting people inside and outside Christian communities where that community was the perpetrator of hurt are not uncommon. Sometimes the Church has been seen to be of the world but not in it, squabbling in our ecclesiastical corners about things that are beside the point of the gospel. These things are not okay, but they are not unexpected in a human system trying to engage with the world.
In 2019 let us all seek to live with Christ’s heart, even when we find ourselves suddenly across the border.