Monthly Archives: November 2013

Today Would Be A Nice Day To Be In New York

 

The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty

New York, New York. So nice they named it twice. Or something like that. If I had to make a list of my top five cities in the world, New York City would definitely be on it. I’ve been there three times and I still I know whenever I get the opportunity I will be back. I’d love to be able to teleport over there today and just spend a few hours wandering!

Central Park
Central Park

What is it about New York that captures the imagination of so many people? Perhaps it’s due to growing up watching so many American movies and television shows, so that the first time you walk the streets of New York it all just feels so familiar. Or perhaps it’s the fact that in this one city you can find pretty much anything and everything from around the world whether art, music, food, people, or ideas. Maybe it’s that every second person on the street is also a tourist and so it feels like you are all figuring this place out together. And that it’s big enough to allow everyone to discover their own ‘secret’ favourite places.

The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge
What do I love about New York?

This could be a long list!

The UN General Assembly Chamber
The UN General Assembly Chamber

Concerts in Central Park in the summer, snow in Central Park in the winter, incredibly talented buskers using the acoustics of Central Park’s tunnels. The fact that Grand Central Station really is quite grand and the fact that you really can choose to pay whatever you wish to visit the world’s most incredible Museums. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center (yes I did!), the view from the Empire State Building by day or by night, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. The quirky pop-up shops and amazing desserts at Chelsea Market, the public library reading room, catching the subway, the Macy’s Christmas window displays.

The Flat Iron Building
The Flat Iron Building

The flat iron building, the story of the Chrysler building, and queuing up for tickets to that night’s shows on Broadway. Watching people people-watching in Times Square, the brand new Ground Zero memorial and the old St Paul’s Chapel right next door. Pizza in Little Italy, BBQ in Little Korea, dumplings in Little Thailand and curries in Little India. The scorched stone statue from Hiroshima in the UN building and touring the places where the world’s leaders meet. Catching the Staten Island ferry and going past Lady Liberty, the place in Wall Street where George Washington became the first US President. Being the only person walking the High Line and looking down at the frenetic pace of the city below.

Times Square
Times Square
What did I learn from the people of New York?

That is quite a bit harder to answer. I’m not sure how many true locals I’ve met there. I’ve run into what feels like the cast of characters from a stereotypical New York sit-com including the taxi driver with pearls of wisdom to share, the concierge who assures you he can get special deals for the right price, and the café waitress who can’t quite understand an Australian accent.  New York is brimming with life of all kinds and yet it often feels like most of the people are visitors there to observe rather than participate. I visited an amazing church with an incredible gospel choir but even there I still felt a little bit like a spectator watching a show.

Ground Zero Memorial
Ground Zero Memorial

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in Manhattan for a while. I imagine those who live there have a very different perspective. But I hope they cannot help but see in their city a microcosm of a world in which there is incredible diversity and beauty, and that sometimes it’s worth slowing down just to sit and watch it all go by for awhile. That’s not something I often take the time to do when I’m in my home city, but maybe I’ll find at least a few minutes where I am today to do the same.

View from the Empire State Building
View from the Empire State Building

Don’t Assume That Where You Are Now Is Where God Wants You To Stay

My church has been preaching through the book of Acts this year, and I was rostered on to preach a couple of weeks ago. The passage for the week was Acts 18:18-28. My first thought when I looked at it was, “What on earth am I going to get out of that?!”

It’s one of those parts of the Bible that I think many people would skim read or even skip completely: it’s a list of names and places that don’t mean much to most of us today. Paul travels a great deal throughout the book of Acts, but this passage is mostly a summary without many details about what happens. It also mentions Priscilla & Aquila and Apollos and where they came from and went to.

As I was praying and thinking about what I could speak on, this phrase came to me very clearly: “Don’t assume that where you are now is where God wants you to stay.” It’s a truth I’ve seen work out in my own life, but it is also something I see consistently reflected in the stories of the Bible. God is in the business of moving people. Whether physically or spiritually, He has places to take us that we have not yet been to.

These biblical stories are more than geography lessons; even though I do personally find the historical geography fascinating 🙂 Geography is here a reflection of mission. When these people became followers of Jesus they didn’t settle down to live comfortable and well-established lives. For them, it meant just the opposite! They were constantly moving, learning, growing, sharing, seeking, listening and travelling.

In our modern western culture it can often seem like the goal is to settle down and make our lives as comfortable as possible. But the basic call of discipleship is Jesus saying, “Follow me.” It seems pretty clear to me that this means a journey, an adventure, a risk. It means stepping out in faith into new places, unknown places, unfamiliar places, even uncomfortable places.

I’ve met with believers in Africa and Asia who seem to get this far better than I do. People for whom becoming a follower of Jesus automatically means a huge shift, whether that literally means packing up their few belongings and moving to the other side of the their country or it means changing their whole outlook and perspective on relationships, economics, power and society. I’ve been so challenged by people I’ve met who come from cultures who see the world so differently to me, and so who don’t automatically assume that being a Christian means living a boring, safe and risk-free life. I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to be willing to go wherever following Jesus takes me. I don’t want to assume that where I am right now is where God wants me to stay.

I finished my sermon with one of my favourite illustrations from Francis Chan. If you’re a follower of Jesus and you want to be challenged and inspired about what that might look like, have a look at this: