Missional Development, Voices

The Challenging Encouragement of a Pastoral Prophet

Greg Paul calls us to pursue TrueCity

He had our attention from the start—”I am convinced that what is going on here right now in Hamilton is more beautiful and more powerful than probably any of you recognize.”

“I think this is a critical time in the city of Hamilton and a critical time amongst the churches that are involved here—God is preparing to do something truly amazing, and you have an opportunity at this moment in history to do something incredible and unique and powerful in the city of Hamilton.”

With that pastor, author, and urban street-worker Greg Paul launched into a two message series that enlarged our vision and challenged us to rethink how God is present in our city and how He calls us to participate with what He is doing in
Hamilton.

On Friday evening the focus was God’s vision for the city as captured by three biblical images—Levites in the cities of refuge called to provide safe haven for those with suspect histories; Jewish exiles called to engage and seek the best for the city they did not want to be in; John on Patmos groping for words to describe the cathartic vision of the city we will inhabit for eternity—the New Jerusalem—the very definition of the True City.

In the spot light of this New Jerusalem hope, Greg invited us to re-enter these biblical images and begin to inhabit them here and now.   Can we learn to be the true Levites who make Hamilton a city of refuge where desperate, down-trodden people find welcome and protection?  Can we learn to live our lives as the exile community which truly seeks the peace of this city to which God has carried us?  Can we learn to live out of our identity as citizens of the New Jerusalem in ways that open wide a way of hope and possibilities for Hamilton?

On Saturday afternoon Greg took us with him to the cross of Christ and challenged us to consider well the implications of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Retelling the stories of Jesus’ interaction with the marginalized in Matthew 9 in the light of 1 Corinthians 9 and Philippians 2, Greg unpacked the implications for us of how Christ emptied himself of power in order to be with us.  He exhorted us to move beyond our addiction to us/them language and living, and to consider how we can more authentically journey with those around us.  As Greg shared, “it was in the place of ultimate vulnerability having rejected the way of power that Jesus opened up life for us.  Likewise the place where we truly meet Jesus is in our brokenness, and that only happens as we give up our power.”

Greg shared with honesty and authenticity some of his own journey with his community of friends on the streets of Toronto. The compassion and joy amidst harsh realities which came through in the stories he shared, amplified the power of his message to us.  May we as churches together, learn to live out this joyful, humble, brimming-with-hope vision, and in unity step into this unique moment in the history of what God is doing in Hamilton.