Recently I had the exciting privilege of attending a Citizenship Ceremony at the Ballarat Town Hall. The candidates for citizenship came from Canada, China, Ghana, India, Iran, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Togo, United Kingdom and the United States.
I was particularly excited because I had been invited to attend by my friends, a family from the Philippines. The husband and their two daughters were candidates for citizenship.
The ceremony conducted by the Mayor, Cr John Burt OAM, was impressive. The welcome from John, the candidates’ pledge, the address by Cr Belinda Coates, presentation of citizenship certificate and the singing of the Australian national anthem led by a student from Damascus College all contributed to the occasion. Belinda during her address acknowledged that for some the journey toward citizenship of Australia was relatively easy while for others it had been fraught with hardship. However, whatever the circumstances, new life in Australia now held the promise of safety, security and opportunity for all.
A further privileged occurred after the ceremony when my friends introduced me to one of their work colleagues, a lady from Iran, who unbeknownst to my friends, had also presented herself as a candidate for citizenship.
It was definitely a happy and exciting occasion, and it was an honour to express my love, support and encouragement to my friends through my attendance.
The whole notion of citizenship brought to mind the amazing privileges we have as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, not an earthly kingdom constrained by geographical, cultural or social boundaries but a kingdom that offers eternal hope, security, safety and opportunity. The benefits and privileges of this kingdom are available today. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life abundant.” This life is available to all trust in God, where we are all one in Christ Jesus.
In Matthew 13 Jesus explains,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2 and Philippians 3 uses the analogy of citizenship to explain the nature of our new-found relationship,
“But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace,…For through him we have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people…”
“But our citizenship is in heaven…”
Privileges of citizenship carry with them the responsibility of living in a manner that honours and contributes to the well-being of others in our new-found home.
As well as attending the recent Citizenship Ceremony with my friends I’ve also had the honour of introducing them to Jesus and help them discover the privileges of belonging to the kingdom of heaven.
The graciousness they have expressed toward me throughout has been a humbling.