This is a story of two cities, one that lives for itself in resplendent luxury and one that lives for others in generosity. One is the city of man, the other is the city of God. One has no destiny, the other typifies eternity. In one, man rules, in the other, Jesus reigns. These two cities occupy the same geographical space but a different spiritual space. One is Sodom, the other the presence of the New Jerusalem. Both of these cities are presently being manifested in the church in Perth, but only the city of Jesus will prevail.
This prophecy is about God’s plan to release Perth into a city of hospitality, and so a city of refuge. It is about the testimony of Jesus to both the local and global context in that most Australian of social events – the barbecue!
Where we are- the Spirit of Sodom
On Melbourne Cup Day this year I saw a crowd spilling out from Ascot Racecourse and wrote the following – “it was like Sodom and Gomorrah on the streets of Perth – men carting women suggestively back to motel rooms, drunken people staggering across the road, half naked females, public propositioning… the grief in the heart of God over the state of the city and the lack of urgency in the church was overwhelming.”
According to the scripture, the following is the cause of Sodom’s downfall “49 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezek 16:49).
Sodom’s greatest error was not homosexuality, but taking affluence for itself rather than using it as a redeeming gift of prosperity for others. (According to Paul (Romans 1:24, 26, 28) homosexuality is a consequence of the foundational sin of idolatry – putting things before God.) W.A.’s pearls, diamonds, gold, iron ore, natural gas, nickel, the forests, wheat fields….are not for our self- gratification, but for the benefit of the world.
According to scripture, the future of the self- indulgent prosperous city is to be devoured as it has devoured,
”17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of the mighty, the flesh of horses and their riders—flesh of all, both free and slave, both small and great.”” (Rev 19:17 -18).
Where we are going- Bread and Sausages for the World
My next door neighbour Bevan is a real “Aussie bloke” – a rough talking man, tough on the outside, he either likes you or he doesn’t. He said to me the other day, “I could have a BBQ every night”. And why not – evening sea breeze in summer, unlimited amounts of food, loads of space.
My new friend Owen looks very different from Bevan on the outside (one has a crew cut the other dreadlocks – Owen has the latter), he is a quietly spoken and considered Christian with a soft interior. But they both share a love of barbie’s.
Owen and some Christian friends run a free BBQ in Hyde Park (feedfivethousand.com). The locals know that Owen and his mates are followers of Jesus, but they also know there is no “hard sell”, in fact, there is no sell at all- it is all free. (Just like grace.) No collection, no appeal, no looking you up and down because you are an Iraqi, or an alcoholic, or an indigenous person or….And guess what, the guests invited to the feast freely turn the conversation to Jesus. Of course they do, because they experience him more clearly through the bread and sausages than any communion wine and wafers they have ever tasted. This is because from first to last this is a Jesus event, to the natural eye you cannot see him, but spiritually there he is, cooking the food, engaging the conversation, distributing the tucker.
As Owen and I talked about the BBQ and where God might take it I had perhaps the clearest and sweetest sense of the presence of Jesus since I came to this state 17 years ago.
Owen’s little BBQ church in the park is a powerful prophetic type of the Messianic banquet. This is the long awaited feast when the Messiah will gather all his people –whatever their colour, class or caste – to enjoy with him the end time supper he has prepared:
11 “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 8:11) “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”” (Rev 19:9)
Restaurants or Barbie – Choose Your Church
Sadly, not all of Owen’s Christian contemporaries understand the BBQ anointing. It’s probably because for a long time they have been a part of a restaurant church. In restaurant churches you pay for a service, the better the service (music, preaching, programmes) the more you will hear appeals for money. The food is served up by professional preparers and dispensers in a comfortable environment both physically and socially.
The standard of excellence is very high and improving at the restaurant church; but hey, is this really Australian, is there anything here you can’t reproduce in Chicago, L.A. or London or any other city? Can restaurant churches be part of Australia’s unique redemptive gift to the world??? In the long run I believe we will conclude that it is a mistake to put our primary focus on multiplying restaurants. (Though they do have a place.)
God however is raising up barbecue churches. (The rest of the paragraph is “spiritual” and not literal.) In barbecue churches everyone brings something to share, some are more skilled at the cooking, others have a great salad, others are social catalysts; but we all mingle together around a central point with deep sense of equality because Jesus has brought us together. We are all mates eating the same, enjoying life together.
Without doubt, the BBQ church is part of Australia’s unique redemptive gift to the world. I’m all in for multiplying BBQ’s. I even believe God wills to multiply the Aussie BBQ church around the world (contextualised of course).
Sodom or the New Jerusalem – Choose your City
Prophetically, God says he is able to “53 restore …the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters ….Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state” (Ezek 16:53,55). This is his ability to bring them back to his glorious purposes in the divine economy for the blessing of the world.
What would it mean for Perth to be meaningfully transformed from a Sodom city to a New Jerusalem city? It would mean for the church as the earthly presence of the heavenly city of God to develop a heart for hospitably without price- a heart of grace. It would mean openness to the refugees of the world, a storehouse of goods, finance, material, personnel, ministry gifts….to release into the nations.
In a very particular way it would involve being a “hospital church”. This involves receiving from across the globe hordes of our persecuted, abused and traumatized brothers and sisters in Christ. Here they will be able to find refuges of prayer, rest, recreation, consolation, trauma counselling, biblical input….and so on. This is NOT so that we can keep them all here; but in many cases strengthen and (perhaps) return with them to the places of danger where they can continue their testimony to Jesus.
“37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ ” (Matt 25:37-40).
In this day of the global village, our neighbour (Luke 10:29) and our brother (Gen 4:9) is the world. As we attend to the needy of the globe we can be assured that unlike our reservoirs the supply of God will never run dry. “11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.” (Isa 58:11).
Someone is probably thinking this is a typically impractical, idealistic, “prophetic piece”. I do not think so.
Some years ago Sam Olsen of the World Evangelical Alliance spoke at a global assembly in Canada from the feeding of the five thousand. He said, “Jesus always worked on the principle of abundance.” He always believed that the Father could supply the needs that were put before him. On a global scale we know this to be true, there is more than enough food etc. to go around. And in the story of the feeding of the five thousand there were twelve baskets left over – that is, a picnic lunch for each of the disciples to the home with them. Whatever God asks us to do, he will supply. ‘”10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor 9:10).
What will happen to Perth at the judgement if the church in this city does not embrace this call of Christ? There is no need to guess.
“44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’” (Matt 25:44- 45).