IN but not OF the marketplace

Some reading this will know that Indooroopilly Uniting Church (Brisbane, Australia) where I’m on team – it’s across the road from one of Queensland’s biggest shopping centres – a real community hub.  With yesterday’s gospel text – John 2:13-22 and last night’s AGM both in mind … this is my brief musing on things, particularly the context and vantage point from which we join in God’s mission …

21cuaresmab32A Church in (but not of) the marketplace

Have you ever “lost it” with someone.  You’ve blown your stack, you’ve got really irate.  You’ve really let it all out.  Lost it!  You’ve probably regretted the manner in which you lost it – perhaps some words poorly chosen … some people, even if never-intended that way … who copped the spray far more than they deserved.  But by the same token, as you cooled down, chilled out … caught some fresh air – you’re glad that you lost it.  Why?  Because there were some fundamental principles underlying your outburst.  The mode of delivery may have called for the rewind button – take 2 – but what was behind it – well you have no regrets.

When Jesus overturns the tables, the stalls there at the temple – well, he plain loses it.  And loses it big-time. Get those doves out of here, says Jesus.  Don’t make my Fathers house a marketplace.  The Jewish leaders had lost sight of why the temple was there in the first place – a place where God was worshipped — for the Jews, in fact where God dwelled in a special way.

In and of itself there was nothing wrong, in terms of the Jewish faith, of people visiting the temple at the time of Jesus making sacrifices. It’s when temple and marketplace get confused, intertwined, mixed up together that things go belly-up as far as Jesus is concerned. Principles and expediency often get mixed up.  Don’t make my Fathers house a marketplace, demands Jesus.

For longer than I can recall, Indooroopilly Uniting Church has struggled to understand how it can best be a church in the market place.  Especially the marketplace we know as Indooroopilly Shopping Centre – bus interchange across the road, train station down the street.  We are a church in the marketplace.  This is not to discount wonderful initiatives over the years like Thursdaze, The Meeting Place, Stroll Through Bethlehem and Christmas Adventure.

The challenge for us a community of Christian people gathered together in worship, witness, service and learning is how to engage the marketplace, without being swallowed up by it.   To be in the marketplace but not of the marketplace.  To engage the times, without being servants of the prevailing culture.

Of course, that’s a challenge not just literally – with engaging the people and subcultures that inhabit over yonder … but a challenge much more broadly for us as church.  How do we engage, how do we encounter, how do we connect with the wider world – the world beyond the four walls of this church?  This is a vital question for us to be asking as redevelopment draws closer. How do we do this while still maintaining our integrity and calling as community of Christ.  For in Christ, we live and move and have our being.  It’s not in Myers or Megaplexes or McDonalds that we find that.

With redevelopment at a near horizon – hallelujah! – we have this most wonderful opportunity – this God-given opportunity – to embrace our community.  The City Council, for one, wants us in the loop when it comes to interfacing with community.

Friends, this is a marvellous opportunity for mission – something that our Mission & Outreach VAG has begun reflecting on.  But this is not simply a task for the Mission & Outreach VAG, or any other VAG for that matter.  Mission and outreach is what every Christian is called to.  And let’s remember we don’t take Jesus there with us into the marketplace.  The wonderfully liberating news is this – hear it clearly!  By his Spirit, Jesus Christ is already there – right there in the marketplace.  Our task is to make Christ known there.  Amen.

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