On Sunday August 11th our deacon David Hunt led the service at our chapel. We sang ‘Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation’ as the opening hymn. David told us that the theme of the service was remembering the saints who have travelled faith’s journey before us. He led the opening prayers.
David began to think of those he had lost. He had looked round the church to see plaques in memory of past members like Jean Morgan. There are many plaques in the vestibule commemorating those who have been influential in the life of this church over the years. We are here now because of what they did in the past, children recorded on the cradle roll, those who have been baptised; many promises have been made by people here over the years and their faith has prepared the way for us. David asked us to think of those people who had been influential for us. Many names flooded into my mind, Dorothy Shepherd, an elderly lady who lived near me as a child and was regarded as a saint in my mind. At school my friend Phyllis suddenly was transformed by meeting Jesus, and challenged the faith I had thought I already had, and my friend Pamela recommended the young people’s fellowship under Mr Stringfellow at Trinity chapel; I also enjoyed learning choruses at a crusader’s group at the United Reformed Church. At university June a fellow student always had time for me with my problems and eventually led me to commit my life to Jesus. In my courtship Rev Tom Teasdale was a marked influence on my and Stephen’s lives. A lady vicar Rev Sheila Fletcher ministered to me during the last years leading up to Stephen’s death and beyond. My colleagues from Oatlands chapel, notably Bob and Dorrie Wise, Fred and Sheila Thompson who were supportive through Stephen’s illness and death; Rev Paul Hooper the former vicar of St Mark’s Church and of course my husband Malcolm all have helped and some still help me on my Christian journey. The list goes on and on and I am sure I have forgotten many whose lives have influenced me in my Christian journey. We then after our times of personal reflection sang ‘All my hope on God is founded.’
David talked about the call of Abram and the promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens, even though he had no heir at that point. As it was described in Hebrews Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died in the faith without having received the promise of the heavenly country. We then sang ‘Author of faith.’ Hebrews was written to Christians facing great difficulties and challenges, who were being reminded of the heroes of the faith to keep their faith in Jesus. Those words spoken to the Hebrews are still of relevance to us today in 2013. The faith of those who have gone before, gives us confidence and hope. The writer to the Hebrews reminded his readers that God not only made but sustains all there is and is at the centre of our faith. By faith Abraham obeyed God, when called to leave his home. Thus faith is not just hoping something will happen but stepping out in faith into the unknown.
David in his calling as a deacon walks alongside people who have a call to be ordained, but don’t know where they are going so set out into the unknown. Faith applies to all people and congregations as it is living with uncertainty, which is difficult as we like to be in control knowing where we are heading. Do any of us really know what the future holds? Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. David talked about John Hull, a blind professor, who had to feel his way step by step; and wondered if blindness was not a model for faith being like a journey embarked upon by a blind man, unable to see the way ahead. We are called to trust in God for the future even if the future is unknown to us.
Abraham left the security, comfort and peace of his home for a life in tents of insecurity and uncertainty. Some people find camping relaxing and refreshing but David is not convinced. Small children thought it would be good to sleep in a tent in the garden but wanted to come back in at 11pm as it was windy and they wanted the security of their beds at home. Faith can be an exciting adventure but when difficulties arise we long to go back to what is secure. Abraham began by travelling without knowing where he was going, but God would reveal promises on the journey. Persistence was required as even in the Promised Land they continued to lead a nomadic life, but believed that God would keep his promises. Sarah’s faith too was tested so she laughed when God revealed that she would have a child, even though she was old. God produced miracles as they set out together, but gradually they realised they could depend on God. David wonders how often they would feel disillusioned and want to give up yet still kept faith in God’s promise.
David summoned up his message, when he reminded us that God has created everything so we can trust in him, as we take risks in obedience, prepared to make sacrifices, and learn to depend on him. Out of his great love God has taken a greater risk for us, as he wants to work with us to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We are called to be workers for and he will never give up on us or let us down. God calls us as individuals and a congregation to step out in faith, walking by faith not sight. We sang the hymn, ‘Give me the faith which can remove’ to conclude worship.