As I prepare towards my Summer move to the newly formed Trent and Dove Circuit I find myself following the Roman God of Janus (i.e. looking in two directions at the same time). There is a mixture of anxiety and hope, of regret at parts of the vision unfulfilled and excitement of a new vision unfolding, of expectation of new friends and grief about the loss of current friends (thank goodness for facebook and the like).
As part of my tidying up I came across these sermon notes (delivered at the closing service for the old Ripley Church building as we prepared to move out to make way for the new building) and I offer them to anyone with a similar mixture of emotions over change.
1) 9th August 1992 stood on the verge of moving to Oldham. Fearful, apprehensive, felt like travelling to a new land.
What would the people be like ?
Would they understand the accent ?
Would I understand their strange ways ?
2) What did I find ? Friendliness, warmth, generosity of spirit. Been the same on every move I`ve ever made.
3) None of us know what lies ahead in our lives. fortune-teller, gazing into crystal ball, to frog: “You are going to meet a beautiful young woman. From the moment she sets eyes on you she will have an insatiable desire to know all about you. She will be compelled to get close to you–you’ll fascinate her.” Frog: “Where am I? At a singles club?”
Fortuneteller: “Biology class.”
4) We stand today, uncertain of our future, saying farewell to a place of memories. Some of you will have been to Sunday-school here; others to ladies classes, mens meetings, rallys, acts of worship. This is a place of memory and it’s always hard to walk away from the place of memories. Even though those memories will travel with us, it still remains hard to let go of the place where they were forged.
5) This is partly because of the unknown future. The great Christian of the war years, Corrie Ten Boom once said “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Whatever happens in the future He is a known God. Passage from 1 John 5 reminds us of this. It reminds us of the victory that those of us who believe in Jesus have, victory over the world. We are the ones who know that the future is Heaven.
6) Vs 11 states categorically “God has given us eternal life”. The God who created us, stepped out of glory of Heaven, into the poverty of the stable, mixed with outcasts, went to the cross to die for us and rose from the dead conquering sin and death for us, so that we might know our sins are forgiven.
7) This is the certainty that we face today; the certainty that in the midst of the sadness of this building, in the midst of the joy of our memories God is with us, Jesus Christ died for us and the Holy Spirit leads us on.
8) God is not tied into this building, nor can our faith in Jesus be limited to our Methodist rituals, nor can the power of the Spirit within us quench the fire of the Gospel, if it is truly there. Scriptures are full of Gods wandering, travelling people; Abraham who left Ur for the promised land; Joshua leading the tribes of Israel into that land; John the Baptist speaking out for the one he hadn`t yet known; the disciples bursting out of the upper room on the day of Pentecost.
9) All of this was possible because of a God who never leaves his people, but who draws one area of his work to a close in order to open up a new area of work and mission.
10) An interesting map is on display in the British Museum in London. It’s an old mariner’s chart, drawn in 1525, outlining the North American coastline and adjacent waters. The cartographer made some intriguing notations on areas of the map that represented regions not yet explored. He wrote: “Here be giants,” “Here be fiery scorpions,” and “Here be dragons.” Eventually, the map came into the possession of Sir John Franklin, a British explorer in the early 1800s. Scratching out the fearful inscriptions, he wrote these words across the map: “Here is God.”
In the unknown future we all face may we be able to write across the map “HERE IS GOD“