The people of Israel were understandably upset when the brightest and best were exiled and forced to live in Babylon. We hear their mournful song … By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. (Psalm 137:1) Babylon was not their home yet God’s commanded them, make yourself at home. Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters (Jeremiah 29:5–6) They were to make this strange land their home because it was important in God’s plans for them.
We make Greyfriars Eden/Epsom our spiritual church home and we meet our spiritual family here each week to unite in worshipping God. What does it mean to us to be in this place; and how do we embrace our place here? The history of Greyfriars is important and helps us understand what people here value. Rev Shaw, the first minister of Greyfriars wrote in 1917, Our work here is to bring the hearts of men to the knowledge of the riches that are in Christ, and to bring them to a personal acceptance of Christ. This mission has been at the heart of Greyfriars family life ever since. Knowing this can help us embrace, not just the physical/geographical place, but more, the mission of the spiritual space and place that is ours as part of the Greyfriars church family.
You might remember the story of Jesus casting the demons out of a man into a herd of pigs. At the end of this story we read of the man wanting to travel with Jesus, but Jesus said to him ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:38–39). At times we might imagine mission is something done overseas, far away, but in reality, for most of us it is about telling our story in our hometown, in the community where we live and among the friends we already have. We need to embrace our mission in this place and consider the part we each play in this mission.
To the people of Israel exiled in Babylon God said, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’” (Jeremiah 29:7) In this church family we give priority to prayer, seeking God’s guidance as we live here in Auckland and particularly gather to worship in Eden/Epsom. This prayerfulness inspires our mission and how we as a spiritual family connect and build relationships with the community around us. These relationships may develop through mainly music ministry at Epsom and playgroup at Mt Eden, through ESOL, BBQ church, men’s dinner, our prison team or the other mix zone ministries we engage in. We do this because God’s love inspires us to connect with others in the place we live.
Perhaps this week you could think about the place you live, work, study, shop or go for coffee. Think about why God has placed you in those places and reflect on God’s love for the people you encounter there. Think about your place in this place and how you can embrace your call into God’s family here and take part in the family life and mission he sets before us.
Rev John Malcolm