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What kind of place is this?

Have you ever wandered into an unfamiliar shop and found yourself distracted by the surroundings? All you want is a little milk, and something tasty for lunch. But it's all laid out differently. You take in the sights and smells. What kind of place is this? Will I get good service here, will I be able to find what I want, will they know if they are selling horse meat?
 
As we approach Easter it may be that much of the story is unfamiliar to us. Even if we know the story, it's themes of brutal execution and then resurrection are not things we come across everyday. Especially as we look at Good Friday and hear the story of Jesus making his way to Golgotha we would do well to ask what kind of place this is.
 
Golgotha was a place of executions, many executions; it was probably also called The Place of the Skull because the rocky outcrop had the appearance of a skull. What kind of place was Golgotha? It was the place where the key symbol of the Christian faith took it's meaning. A wooden cross where Jesus died. A place of death, of suffering and of weeping. There was no hope here, no peace, no mercy. Only death. Golgotha was a death kind of place.
 
Sometimes that is the only part of the Christian story that is told. Sometimes worthy followers of Jesus get stuck on the death of Friday and forget about Sunday. Occasionally whole churches continue in the pattern of the execution of Jesus at Golgotha. But keeping us there, keeps Jesus dying on the cross. This is why I find lent so difficult to stay in for more than about 10 minutes. I am just so sure of the full life I have in Jesus.
 
Golgotha was the place of death, but not as we first pictured it. While Jesus did die physically something much more significant happened that day. Jesus took with him on the cross, to that place of the skull all of the mess and sin of the whole world. He dragged it down to hell and killed it all off for good. Having freed us from the death of sin he rose to life so that we could have life in all its fullness. The cross is not really about death and suffering and hopelessness; but about life and freedom and hope.
 
In the light of the cross what kind of place should we be? As followers of Jesus we have heard his invitation 
to full life and freedom. This is what we invite people into, not death and hopelessness, not more of the same, but into the full life and freedom of the risen Jesus.
 
In some supermarkets they pipe into the entrance the smells from the bakery 
Bread
and they intentionally place the fresh vegetables near the entrance. You walk in and unconsciously as you take in the sights and smells, everything looks fresh and smells like it has just come out of the oven. As a church let us declare the reality of who Jesus is by the way we live and share life with each other. Then as others visit this church family and ask the question, what kind of place is this, they would see the new life, smell the freshness of the kingdom of God and choose to follow the living risen Jesus.

Mark Searle, 18/02/2013