For those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student of AFL (as one of my recent Pastor’s Desk illustrated). Coincidentally, at the start of the AFL season this year I was invited to preach in Victoria by a good friend, Jim. Jim used to pastor in a large inner-city Melbourne church then a few years ago had a sea-change when he and Robyn moved to the country to pastor a historic church. Normally when I am invited to speak at a church I speak at meetings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But Pastor Jim said we were not going to do any meeting on Saturday—instead, we were going to Melbourne to watch the opening AFL game of the season between his team, the Essendon Bombers and my team, the Geelong Cats. And when I say “his” team, I mean Jim is just as passionate about the Bombers as I am about the Cats – except that Jim is able to make it to most of their games. And while my team ended up winning the season and then the Grand Final, Jim’s team ended the season in turmoil.
On Wednesday, Pastor Jim rang me and asked if I had heard the news that the Bombers had just appointed a new CEO? But more importantly, he wanted to know if I had heard that the appointment of the former CEO of the National Australia Bank, Andrew Thorburn, as the new CEO of the Essendon Bombers had aroused such hostility from a particular journalist? Apparently the journalist had taken great offence that Mr. Thorburn was the Chairman of an Anglican Church, City On A Hill, which actually believed what Jesus taught about the sacredness of life, the sanctity of marriage, and the sanctitude of sex. While journalists are often unaware (in my experience) of what Jesus Christ taught and Christianity represents, Premiers — such as Dan Andrews — is actually expected to be aware of it! Instead, Premier Andrews accused Mr Thorburn of being ‘homophobic’ and said that the Essendon Football Club should not associate with such people. What followed was that some journalists began referring to the church – City on a Hill – as a cult with extremist ideas such as “anti-abortion”. This accusation illustrates just how Biblically-illiterate many in our culture have now become.
HOW CHRIST CHANGED THE VALUES OF THE WORLD!
The universal symbol of Christianity is the cross. The symbol of the cross, now worn as jewellery around people’s necks, symbolises love, peace, sacrificial care, and the work of Christ. But the cross, the instrument of the Roman Empire’s most violent vengeance and wrath upon those who dared to defy them, stood as a despised symbol of the ultimate humiliation and pain.
¶ For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
First Corinthians 1:18
And being found in human form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Cities are always built near abundant fresh water or harbours – not on top of hills! Which is why the choice for the ancient location Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, was very odd because it was built on a hill where there was no water (a problem creatively solved by King Hezekiah in 2Kings 20:20). Jerusalem was chosen by God to be His city which was to be a statement and a wonder to the surrounding nations. Coincidentally, Christ said that His followers would be “a city on a hill”.
¶ “You are the light of the world.
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
In other words, Christ’s followers would be a wonder to the world that would defy reason (Jn. 17:20-21). By describing them with the odd expression “a city on a hill” Christ was describing the spiritually supernatural nature of His followers united together as the church. The Church is unlike any other organisation or corporation on earth! While companies and governments need masses of money to solve their many problems, the Church taps into its supernatural resources of prayer, spiritual gifts, ministries, and servant-hearted volunteers, and can often solve the same problems at a fraction of the cost.
In the Greco-Roman world into which Christ entered humility was seen as weakness. The most despised role in the Greco-Roman world was that of a slave. Yet, after Christ came as a humble servant, the world no longer regarded humility or servant-hearted leadership as weaknesses – but as virtues.
Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
Love, Sex, and Gender
The basis of relationships in the Greco-Roman world was often transactional – that is, people would form alliances through treaties or marriage contracts. Love rarely entered into the equation. But when Jesus came He taught that the basis of relationships and interactions with other people – and especially marriage between a man and woman – was love.
¶ “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Christ’s description of marriage included statements about how His Father created all people as either male or female and that human bodies are created sacred, and sexual. Jesus said that sexual union was designed by God to be exclusively between a husband and wife (“the two become one flesh”) –
He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said,
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
SO WHO BUILDS A CHURCH & NAMES IT, A CITY ON A HILL?
When the journalist and then the Premier of Victoria accused both Andrew Thorburn and A City on a Hill church of being anti-abortion and homophobic they committed two mistakes. Firstly, they named-called. Whenever someone does not have a case to make they often resort to name-calling. Secondly, they ridiculed people they did not know. Mr Andrew Thorburn is a highly respected corporate leader who has a wealth of corporate leadership experience. A City on a Hill is a church in eight locations around Australia which is under the auspices of the Anglican Church of Australia. It is a highly regarded church that teaches the Word of God and strives to encourage its members to live authentic Christ-following lives. This is why Melbourne Archbishop Philip Frier was quick to defend A City on a Hill and its leadership as godly and Christ-honouring people, including Mr Andrew Thorburn, its Board Chairman. While I feel for the unfair treatment that Mr Thorburn has had to endure, I also feel sad for the Essendon Football Club who would have benefited greatly from the much needed culture change that Mr Thorburn would have instigated. May God continue to bless the members, leaders, and Board of City on a Hill and may God also continue to use them to raise even more Company CEOs of many of Australia’s leading companies, and maybe even a few CEOs of AFL Football teams! So Who builds a city on a hill? Christ does, that’s who! And He calls it His Church.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
5 Things We Need To Do To Break Our Church’s 200 Barrier, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 1 – Introduction To Apologetics, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 2 – The Apologetic Arguments For God, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 3 – The Apologetic Arguments For The Bible, Premium Audio