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19 December 2012

Divine relocation

Divine relocation

I have been thinking a lot about moving recently. I guess it is inevitable with all that is going on around me...

Our contractors are on site and, all being well, they will be out by March and the Evangelical Alliance will be in our new resource centre. I’m sure you can imagine it has been a lot of hard work getting to this stage. I’m so thankful for our team of unsung heroes who work behind the scenes making so much of what we do as the Evangelical Alliance possible. I am also so excited about the possibilities associated with the new location. A short walk from Kings Cross with easy access to Westminster, Downing Street and Broadcasting House, our new building will provide a modern working environment for our media and advocacy hubs and a meeting place for evangelical and other leaders from across the country.

Let me take this opportunity to thank those of you who have been able to help us in this project. We are both enormously encouraged and humbled by your generosity.

As I have reflected on our move, I have felt challenged to consider again the divine relocation project undertaken 2,000 years ago. The apostle John describes it like this: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Eugene Peterson now famously translates the passage coining the phrase “moved into our neighbourhood”. Whichever translation you prefer, the meaning is the same – ‘the incarnation’ as it is theologically known involves a divine relocation. Jesus did not live in some messianic enclave, a son of God safe zone. No, the revelation of scripture is the shocking news that He dwelt among us. He was, in every sense, a man (other than sin) with no special privilege, if anything he was underprivileged. No special arrangements were made for his birth - born to an unmarried teenager, his surroundings weren’t a palace or temple. His life was under threat from the beginning and within weeks he was a refugee fleeing for his life. As life settles down, it could be said his turned into an ‘ordinary’ life. He had brothers and sisters and as far as the neighbours were concerned his dad was a carpenter and he followed the family business. In every sense he “made his dwelling among us”. The divine relocation positioned Jesus, the Son of God, within an obscure Palestinian town known as Nazareth.

John goes on to describe Jesus using these words: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” The divine relocation involved, from the beginning, a sending by the Father and a modelling of the essence of the godhead summed up in two words: grace and truth. Unhappily over the years the history of the Church has seen us focus on either one or the other. All grace with little truth telling, perhaps with the fear of causing offence. Or maybe more commonly, all truth with little place for the grace which makes the truth accessible.

And so to my challenge. To what extend do I ‘dwell’ in my street, my neighbourhood, my town or city or indeed my place of work or education? Isn’t it easy to live with a mindset ‘I’m only passing through… therefore it’s not all that important?’ Or perhaps I’m praying to reach the nation so I can forget about my street. The challenge for me of ‘the divine relocation’ involves a realisation that I can’t dwell ‘everywhere’, it has to involve a ‘somewhere’. A place where I am present, I am known, I have relationships. A place where I can make my contribution, pray my prayers and be a good neighbour or workmate. A place where I can work at living the grace and truth life modelled by Jesus. I have to confess, Ann is far better at this than I am. We moved into our current home about four years ago. Over the last four years, she has become part of the neighbour book club, co-ordinated Neighbourhood Watch, organised a jubilee street party and is regularly out on the streets as a Street Pastor.

In moving to our new resource centre in Kings Cross, we are tremendously excited about the opportunity to serve the Church across the UK but I am also praying that we will be a blessing to our neighbours and will make a contribution to the Christian community of the area.

Please pray for us. The next few months involve all the challenges of change. Pray that we as a team will be both sensitive to each others’ needs but brave enough to embrace the wonderful opportunities that change provides for us.

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