Driving to the South of France for a summer holiday takes relentless hours of motorway cruising. To a little Englander, France feels massive – but in comparison with the awesome mass of Africa it is tiny. On a jet it takes only about an hour and a half from take off in London to clear the French coast and touch North Africa. There are then another nine hours of flying before reaching a South African airport.
As I write, I’m sitting in Heathrow’s Terminal 5, having just flown in from Johannesburg, and am waiting for a coach that will take me back to Poole. For once, T5 has lived up to its billing, and within 25 minutes of landing, luggage was off the carousel and I was through passport control – an incredible piece of logistical efficiency.
It often strikes me as strange that we call these places ‘terminals’. It’s not really a very comforting title – ‘terminal’ speaks of death. Yet there is something appropriate about the nomenclature. Terminal 5 has something of the antiseptic, impersonal feel of the places where most of us will die. It also feels terminal in its artificiality – a processing plant where every nationality under the sun is herded together and processed through to other, more distinct destinations. If I were a Catholic, I could imagine this is how purgatory looks.
An ever present danger for us is that we live terminal lives – artificially maintained and terribly constricted in scope. As followers of Jesus we need to have a wider view than that. The world is so much larger than we often consider it to be – it is more Africa than France – and, in Christ, the whole world is ours (1 Cor 3:22-23). This means the opportunities the world offers us are large, and the mission field we are called to is huge. Let’s not get stuck in the terminal, but go to the ends of the earth.