A church's 50th Anniversary

ALONG THE SIDE OF THE OLD WESTERN HIGHWAY you will find a series concrete posts used to mark distance. On the Victorian side of the border, one side always showed the distance to Melbourne, as if no other destination mattered, the other side showing the distance to or from the town to the West. These mileposts were an invaluable aid to travellers, indicating both the extent of progress and the challenge which still lay ahead.

Today we sink down a milepost on the journey of community faith - but is it more a reminder of how far we come as a community, or an indicator of how far we have to go? That largely depends on which direction we are travelling now. This milepost ought to remind us of the journey ahead, building on the groundwork already laid. Encouragement may be gained through reflection on the journey already completed, but unless we continue, it has all been in vain.

When the horse which lead for half of this year's Melbourne Cup race failed to  finish the event, and was ultimately destroyed I was challenged to remember as God's church, and as His saints that we should be those who see through to the finish. Many are those fallen by the wayside: communities and individuals, who have failed to finish well, assuming that what has been done, the journey already travelled, is enough. But what is the way forward?

Like the farmer's 50-year-old axe (having had three new heads and four new handles, but still the same old axe) we too must be prepared to shed and renew that which has outlived its usefulness in order to continue on. We must respond to new needs, new challenges, new directions from the Spirit in order to continue the journey. We keep moving on so that this milepost becomes a memory: a reminder of past faithfulness and an encouragement to continue.

Some things remain unchanged: the local community still needs a vibrant, relevant and compassionate witness to the grace of God, whose resources are still available to us in all their fullness. But the challenges and value systems of our local community have changed; life brings new and different pressures, meaning that the connecting points for sharing the gospel have altered.

Ultimately only one destination matters - the completion of the journey, punctuated with the greeting 'Well done, good and faithful servant'. This ever was, and ever will continue to be our goal, one which we must stride ever closer to with each passing day.

As Paul noted: 'Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.' (Phil 3:13). Happy anniversary!

November 15, 1998
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