Sunday, 23 October 2016

Faith for the Future

Are you walking into God's future?
Faith for the Future:  A sermon preached on 23rd October, 2016 at Easton Methodist Church, Portland.  The sermon is based on Deuteronomy 34:1-12. The full text of the reading is below.

Deuteronomy is a collection of great speeches given by Moses who led the people of God, the Israelites, out of Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land.  Moses and Joshua are the two main characters apart from God of course.  Moses dies just outside the Promised Land having led the people of God for 40 years.  The story continues seamlessly with the book of Joshua as Joshua becomes the new leader.

Our theme today is "Faith for the Future".

Moses was told, ” I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.’  How frustrating that might be if those words were spoken to us.  We go the edge of something great but do not get to experience it.  Yet sometimes that is the role we are called to.
Moses is shown the Promised Land. He gets a glimpse of God’s future for his people, although will he not enter into that future himself. Moses has spent years walking and journeying in faith, believing God for the future and God is faithful. Sometimes we are blessed with entering into the future that God has prepared. Sometimes we are the ones who pave the way or build the foundations. This is just as important and sometimes a more challenging aspect of faith. Faith is not mentioned in this passage, but surely Moses stands as an example of faith and perseverance.

This week Team GB athletes from the Olympics and Paralympics were in the news. Celebrations took place in Manchester and London including a trip to Buckingham Palace.  One part of the Olympics is relay race.  The starter is not the finisher!  They pass the baton.

We have to pass the baton of faith, of vision, of journey, of building.  Our Christian journey is a rich mixture of inheritance from those who have gone before and their vision and those who are to come – who we will start things for.  Together we are called the Communion of Saints. 

So here we are today thinking about Faith for the Future.

In order to have faith for the future I suggest we need to have or do the following.

Walk by faith
2 Corinthians 5:7
"For we live by faith, not by sight."

This is the life we are called to.  This is the life Moses was called to.  He was challenged to see what human eyes might not see.  He was called to look with the eyes of faith.

Exodus 3 has Moses’ encounter with a burning bush.  It burned but did not burn.  As Moses drew near he heard the voice of God.  Out of that encounter Moses is told he is standing on holy ground – God is there.  He is told God’s name – I am who I am. This is important in explaining to the Israelites that he has the authority of God.  He receives a call and commission to lead God’s people out of Egypt – a task he does not feel up to.

Moses is challenged to see with eyes of faith, to walk by faith.  To see the impossible become possible, to enter into this high and hard calling.  To all intents and purposes in human terms what God was asking was impossible.  There were too many barriers.  But the walk of faith does not stop at such barriers. We walk by faith.  We are called to have eyes of faith.

We can see by faith what will be.  So one challenge today is what can you see growing or happening by faith in the future?  The steps we take today might be the thing that enables that to come into being.
What is God calling us to see in his mind’s eye today?  Where are we being called to walk by faith?  In human terms it may look impossible.  But close your eyes and look with his eyes.

Let's pause for a moment in silence.

Is there something for you, for me, today?  Is there something that we can see with eyes of faith?  Something God is calling us to?

In order to have faith for the future, we need to 
Act by Faith

And so Moses acted.  He took his first steps into the future of God’s purposes.  He went to the Israelites; he went to Pharaoh; he led the people out of Egypt; he headed towards the Promised Land.  This was not without its challenges, problems, pain, delays. 

Charles Wesley said, “FAITH, MIGHTY FAITH, THE PROMISE SEES, AND LOOKS TO GOD ALONE; LAUGHS AT IMPOSSIBILITIES, AND CRIES IT SHALL BE DONE.”  So whatever God calls us to, whatever we see by faith, we need to say “It shall be done”.  We need to act by faith.

It’s a bit like that book by John Ortberg “If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat”.

So what steps are we called upon to take an make as we move into God’s future?  That might be a step as an individual for something God is calling us to do perhaps some kind of ministry for him?  It might be a step about what we do with our lives.  The step or decision we take today may build our lives for better or worse.  Or it might be a step as a church.  I do believe we have seen a sign of what God can do when we exercise faith in relation to stepping out and confirming that we would repair the roof here at Easton Methodist Church when we did not have the money.  We said that as a Church Council because we believe that God wants mission and ministry channelled through this place.  That meant nearly £25000 minimum to be raised in 5 months.  And out of the blue it just arrived!

There are other steps we are being challenged to take in relation to this place – a big vision – a comfortable, warm, well lit, flexible worship space in the Sanctuary.  Way beyond what we are doing to make the place water tight.  But if that vision is right it won’t be accomplished tomorrow.  It will need to be started and we will need to take steps now.  And those that take the first steps will not necessarily be those who take the steps further along or indeed who take the last steps.

But then what else does God have for the future?  Maybe this house needs to be refurbished because God is going to fill it.  Why not?  Maybe God wants us to step out in faith in terms of ministry and mission in new and expanded ways.  Maybe that will take time, effort, expense.  Maybe the task will be great and will take time to come to fruition.  Maybe…........  Whatever God has for us we take steps today that are vitally important which help move us further into God’s future.

We walk by faith seeing by faith, but we act as well.  We examine ourselves and say does God have me?
Does he have my time?
Does he have my talents?
Does he have my wallet or purse?
Does he have me as a living sacrifice?

Does he have me so that when he calls me to act I will?

God today may be speaking to us as individuals and as church saying take a step forward, move now, make this thing happen, look to the future.  Don’t build a wall round the present and try to keep it like this for ever.  It doesn’t work.  God is on the move.  He calls us to be on the move as well.

In order to have faith for the future we need
Trust in (Trust = Faith) God’s unfolding plan for the Future

"God buries his workmen, but carries on his work."  This was quoted in my Local Preachers' Accreditation letter from the then President of the Methodist Conference.  It is a Charles Wesley quote that appears on a monument to John and Charles Wesley in Westminster Abbey.

The story of the people of God carries on in Joshua 1:1 – and God speaks to Joshua, Moses successor.  Moses died.  God and his will did not.  We serve God and his purposes.  The legacy we build is not our own but God’s.  I want to serve the purpose of God in this generation as the worship song goes.

Maybe we haven’t always looked to and for God’s future.  Maybe we haven’t always responded to God’s call.  Maybe we haven’t always been obedient.

Sometimes we recognise that we have drawn back from God's future or even tried to prevent it.  It is like the "Undo" button on a computer which takes away the last thing.  Unfortunately we can’t do that in life.  In each of us that is true.  We have done what we have done.  We can be forgiven for it if it was bad, but we cannot undo it.  If the Devil reminds you of your past remind him of his future.  The past is the past.  But we can affect the future.  We can decide to live for God and his purposes and trust that we have a part to play in God’s unfolding purposes and future.  And it may be that our part is to build the foundations for some work of God.  It may be others who see the end result.  That is why we should not devalue that which we are called to know.

And in this building work we have Jesus himself to be the head of it and the power of the Holy Spirit within us to help us in the task.

Walk (by faith)
Act (by Faith)
Trust (in faith)

Milan Cathedral was started in 1386 and mostly finished in 1965, though some details were not completed until later. The construction took almost six centuries.

We are not just building for now we are building for tomorrow.

Moses saw it through.  He kept going even though he would not see the end result.  But God used him to form and found that new land and the people that were to enter it.

We may not all get to whatever the Promised Land is on earth, but we can all be a part of the journey towards it.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, opposite Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land – from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.’
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.