As an Australian in Glasgow, I’m conscious every now and again of the feeling of being a foreigner. It doesn’t happen very often, and it’s easier for me than others as I am a somewhat ‘invisible’ foreigner in the UK; also white, Western, and English-speaking. I’m never more struck by this feeling than when I walk the streets of Govanhill and see the melting pot of cultural influences that dominates the area. I walk past Slovak convenience stores, a Ghanaian restaurant, the local mosque and a Scottish bakery just in one block.
I’m sure a lot of the new Scots and refugees feel their exile far more poignantly than I, but I am reminded that as Christians we should all recognize this feeling of exile and foreignness on some level. Exile is a significant theme that runs through the whole Bible. From Genesis 3 when man is cast out of the Garden in Eden, through the Jewish exile to Babylon, to the New Testament letters where early Jesus followers were encouraged not only to welcome the stranger and foreigner, but to think of themselves as foreigners too (1 Peter 1).
Wonderfully though, and in a way that is both surprising and that I’ve come to expect from our faith, this foreignness is flipped upside-down so it is a gift and a call, a gracious opportunity afforded us as followers of Jesus. Our foreignness reminds us to look forward to the coming Kingdom of God, our true and permanent home (Hebrews 13). We are to live as foreigners, different and distinct, actively calling and bringing and waiting the Kingdom of God into our lives. Even as exiles in Babylon, God calls his people to life, to plant gardens and to settle in (Jeremiah 29).
Exiles planting gardens still happens today. A week past Sunday a motley crew of volunteers from QP joined me on Langside Road for the first draft of our community gardening project. As with most first drafts, we learned a lot, and will likely make some tweaks to help the smooth running of the event. Encouragingly though, with our first draft complete, I am confident that I like the story we as QPBC are telling in Govanhill. A story of God’s grace and faithfulness, of living differently, as foreigners, and of the small beginnings of the Kingdom of God.
If you are interested in getting involved (whether you were there last time or not) we are hosting our next community gardening day on Sunday 27th March.