Brothers and sisters of Christ Church, Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2018 to achieve all goals and plans whatever they may be for the New Year! It may only be the 2nd month of 2018 and I bet that many of us have quit, put-on-hold or totally rejected our “New year resolutions and plans for 2018”. I will put my hand up and admit that it is hard to maintain patience and wait for something. We do not have a copious supply of patience to wait and go through the small steps that lead to the final outcome; everything has to come at the snap of a finger.
In today’s world, time has become somewhat of a finite component of existence. There is so much to do in our personal lives that we become impatient and rush through life, missing out on the finer details of life. Many biblical characters in Scripture made poor personal choices because of their lack of patience in God. A familiar story is Moses and the impatient Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 12 onwards). Reading from Exodus 12 through to the book of Numbers, it paints a picture of how impatient and bitter the Israelites were towards Moses and to God, even testing God! By using Moses, God led His people out of horrible conditions, they lived as slaves in Egypt, He saved them from Pharaoh’s army (the parting of the Red Sea) and made great promises to the Israelites…but throughout the difficult journey, they were still impatient and complained A LOT! (Exodus 17:2-7, Numbers 21: 4-6). They wanted everything that God had promised right away.
We should learn from our ancestors, the Israelites, that God knows when to do everything. His timing is perfect and everything happens for a reason. The Israelites’ lack of faith was manifested in their impatience. With their own actions, they made things difficult for themselves in the wilderness.
Patience is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. We had an interesting sermon led by our Minister Rev. Ruth Moriarty on the fruits of the Spirit and patience is one of the nine fruits needed to live a fruitful and peaceful life. Galatians 5: 22 – 23 (GNB) says “But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. There is no law against such things as these.” Patience is the ability to wait for something without getting annoyed or restless. Not too long ago, we went through a phase of finding a new minister for Christ Church Friern Barnet. Our patience was tested and what a test it was! There is an old saying that says, “Good things come to those who wait” and are we glad we waited! Applicant after applicant, we waited patiently as we read many applications, some of which were very good! We did not rush and pursue the applicant we thought was “good for Christ Church” but rather we waited on an answer from the Lord. Proverbs 3: 5-6 (GNB) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.”
Many people place blame on God by saying that “He is taking too long with my plans” and they prematurely rush into a decision without thinking of the consequences. When their decision backfires, shouts of desperation towards the sky such as “God, why didn’t you help me?”, “Why didn’t you stop me God!?” or “I trusted in you Almighty God to see me through this journey” ensues. Proverbs 19:3 (GNB), “Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord.” Our Heavenly Father never takes too long for a plan to come together. God knows what you don’t know and He sees what you don’t see. We have all been down that road where we have prayed for things we need in our lives and we see things that seem similar to what we prayed for. There are so many distractions in this world that detract us from what God wants for us. The evil schemes of man put what we have been praying for in front of us, giving us the illusion that it is from God. We must not rush into every decision which can lead to a downward spiral. We must not pray and say “God did not say no to this so I’m guessing this is His will.” We must all be still and wait on the Lord. Psalms 37:7 (GNB), “Be patient and wait for the Lord to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans.”
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, there were biblical characters that made poor choices because of their lack of patience in God. On a positive note, there were biblical characters who had patience and trust in God. A few names are Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12 onwards), Joseph (Genesis 37), Noah (Genesis 6), Job (Job 1) and Moses (Exodus 3). What is extraordinary about the names mentioned above are that all of them went through situations that required astonishing amount of patience and total trust in the Lord. We are not talking about a 5-day waiting period for the Lord to act. Some had to endure years of waiting to see the plan of the Lord manifest. Moses and the people of God had to endure the harsh conditions of the desert as they wandered the desert for 40-years for the Promised Land. Moses passed away within sight of the Promised Land. It took an incredible amount of patience for Moses, his family and the people of God to wait that long to finally reach the Promised Land that God had prepared for them.
As Christians, our lives will be a long journey with many ups and many downs. We are going to need a lot of patience to endure what life throws at us. We need to keep our focus on the Lord and not on the things of the flesh which will hinder our patience. In the coming years, the next step for Christ Church should be: 1) Building the foundation of the church with the Holy Spirit and not by what we think is right for church. 2) Growing the congregation and reaching out to the neighbouring communities. 3) Patiently waiting and preparing for the church-build to come to plan. If it took Moses 40-years to wait patiently for the plan of God to manifest, why can’t we wait for at least 5-10yrs for the church to grow and prosper? Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Moses and Job waited patiently for the Lord to act upon them, placing their every ounce of trust in God, we should use them as examples of patience for us as we wait upon the Lord.
I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER This is a well known phrase which can be found in Psalms 23 and no-one really knows what awaits us beyond the barriers of time and space, but this image beckons to us like a bright star. An image of a place filled with warmth and light and a beautiful way to enter into the very presence of God. This is the same promise and imagery that Jesus used “in my Fathers house there are many rooms”. At the very close of life we are close to God, just as is a new born baby when held in it’s mothers’ arms, and we have come full circle on the journey which has taken us all the way from the beginning to the end.
In moments of inspiration we feel the presence of God all around us, more comforting than the light of the summer sun. When the moment of inspiration fades and the clouds gather once more, the foundations of our faith are shaken. Now we are put to the test, and being tested we find a presence and a power greater than we can imagine. We are armed with God’s sure staff and in the wild places of our daily lives we can find our way with a sense of courage and confidence that comes even in the eye of a storm.
Now is the time between the times and we learn the value of the support that comes from our fellow Christians, and when breaking bread at Holy Communion we can revisit Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me even in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows”.
Finally, we look ahead beyond the barriers of time and space and we are filled with a deep conviction and confidence, and we can safely say “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. So, in the time between times, between life and death, between creation and consummation, between peace and war, with God as our guide the way shall be made plain and the passage sure throughout the journey we call our lives. Tony Fensome
Dear Christ Church,
Every Christmas my Great-Aunt Rose used to make the best sausage rolls in the world. While a Greggs sausage roll is a marvellous treat, the image from Greggs Advent calendar has certainly been ruffling feathers. Here the marketing department of the famed bakery has swapped baby Jesus for a sausage roll in the manger. Around the manger are two kings and a shepherd, who came to visit and worship Jesus (albeit not at the same time in the biblical story). In a way, the image does illuminate our obsession with food at Christmas. Having just read 'Woman and Home's guide to Christmas food I can confirm that festive food preparation and definitely not getting stressed about cooking that huge turkey is something that takes over too many minds.
Throughout Advent at church this year we will be looking at the season of preparation that Mary and Elizabeth experienced as both came to be pregnant when they least expected it. We will be considering our own preparations for Christmas and how Jesus as God with us can transform lives in his fragility as a baby, suffering as crucified Lord and his power as Risen Saviour. We will gather to worship the Son of God who came to be with us, one of us as his family today. So, while a sausage roll is a rather silly swap for Jesus, in it we remember that God came to be with us, just like food is part of our everyday lives. And too that just as Great-Aunt Rose used to bring out her sausage rolls at special occasions, Jesus is also at the heart of every special day we share as his family.
We're so excited to share our first Christmas with you here at Christ Church and are looking forward to singing carols, making Christingles and sharing God's joy and love with you all.