Sermon at St Edward’s, Burgess Hill, 7th August 2022. Readings: Hebrews 11: 1-16 / Luke 12: 32-40
Faith & Vision
I wonder if any of you have heard of Brother Yun, otherwise known as the ‘Heavenly Man’ ? His story is remarkable and is a fabulous example of faith in the face of adversity.
Born in 1958 in China, he became a Christian having seen the miraculous healing of his Father. He didn’t have a bible, in a country where you could be imprisoned for having one, but he prayed & fasted for months and he was given one by some missionaries who had received a dream to bring a bible to a particular person at particular place and time. He treasured it and memorised whole swathes of it. He was filled with a passion to preach the gospel and despite the danger, that is what he did. He took a stand against the government controlled church and as a result was imprisoned on numerous occasions for years at a time, he was mistreated and tortured terribly.
But his faith is astounding, he held on to God no matter what, continuing to preach even in prison, despite all that was thrown at him. He fasted, prayed, and on one occasion God even led him miraculously out of a maximum security prison, past guards and doors being opened – just as happened to Peter in Acts 12.
He is now safe living in Germany with his family and continuing to preach and minister. I commend his book to you it is such an uplifting account of God at work.
The thing that stayed most with me in reading Brother Yun’s story is not the miracles – of which there are many, but the absolute unshakable faith he has. It is staggering. In a modern day version of our Hebrews reading he would be mentioned there: By faith, Brother Yun, when imprisoned and tortured continued to preach the gospel in boldness and strength.
He is a hero of the faith – as the people in Hebrews are sometimes referred to. And today I want us to focus on our faith in our circumstances.
Faith is, as we read in vs 1
… faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.Hebrews 11:1
And the passage goes on, and we read of these people who walked in amazing faith, trusting in where God was leading them even though they couldn’t see what was coming.
I mean Noah for example – have you ever seen the film ‘Evan Almighty’? it’s a comedy spoof of a guy who thinks God is asking him to build an ark – and people think he’s crazy but it’s very funny. But it makes you think, what did Noah face when he started building that boat? – probably ridicule. What about Abraham – taking his son to be a sacrifice, fully trusting in God; and in following God’s leading to lands far off, knowing it was what God was asking of him.
I mean were they fearful? Probably! But did they trust? Yes. And we know they saw God do amazing things, even here in this passage, they are named as heroes of the faith; thousands of years later so many people have read about them.
They had confidence in the hope of God, even though they couldn’t see the future. Just as Brother Yun did. And today I want us to try and grab hold of a bit of that same strength of faith and trust in God.
This week I shared with the PCC the vision for the future of St Edwards.
A church of welcome, of community and of hope
A church of scripture, spirit, sacrament, that is shared.
We are going to have a full launch of the vision in a few weeks times, date TBC. But I will share some of it as we go through the next few weeks.
In it there is some stuff that is not too challenging – as you know we have said from the start we will keep a Sunday morning traditional mass. This is part of the identity of St Ed’s – we’ve talked of honouring the past, navigating the present to build for the future. This is a key element of the life of St Ed’s, past, present and future. It is as much a part of the vision as any other area.
But there will be some challenges for us all – me included! Some calls for us to get outside our comfort zones. Some things that we might find a little scary. But we should remember that all this is what I and the vision team believe God is leading us in to.
God is calling us to step out in faith too, to be encouraged by those heroes of the faith, to be people who are so trusting of God we will go wherever God leads. We may not, like Noah and Abraham, know where we will end up, but we can trust in God and be excited about the future.
Faith is about having confidence in who God is and where God is leading even though we can’t see the future.
And we need to have faith that God is going to revitalise this church even though we can’t see it.
We need to have faith for the future even when it might be scary. For most of us here we know Jesus already, we have the gift of years of faith and of being led by the Lord, but there are so many out there who haven’t yet received that gift. Let us hope and dream, in faith, that God will use us and Christs’s church here to see that happen.
The last 2 Thursdays we’ve seen 60+ kids and adults come here to have fun and play together. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every one one of them came back here to find out more about Jesus?
So one thing that I have talked about already is that once a month this service will be a little more inormal with some elements that are suitable for all ages. This (what we do on Sunday morning) style of worship is important to us here at St Edwards and I don’t just want us to focus solely on the ‘new’ things to seek growth, but across the board. I want people to be drawn here at 10am as much as at any other time.
So once a month we want to create a space of worship that is more accessible to those who maybe haven’t come to church before, a place we can host baptisms and dedications, welcome people in , making them to feel welcome whilst also enabling them to have an introduction to a more formal way of worshipping. It also gives us an opportunity to have inter-generational worship – as more children join us, so we can worship together in a way that is accessible for us all.
Now that might be a little different to what we are used to. We might have slightly different liturgy on those days, or new songs. But let’s see that as a wonderful opportunity to grow in the depth of our faith and spirituality. To learn a new song to sing to the Lord. To create space where others can join us in that.
Let’s be faithful not fearful.
Do you know I love those lines in our Luke passage:
‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.Luke 12:32
Do not fear, we have already received the kingdom of God. But – let’s give away what we have – vs 33 goes on ‘sell your possessions give alms’. Let us give away what we have to bless others – let’s let go of some of what we hold on to, to enable others to have what we have.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Luke 12:34
Our treasure is in knowing Jesus, let’s do all we can to share that with others
Part of having a faith is to be people who build up Christs’ church – we are the bride of Christ.
So how do we do that? We give what we have to the work of the Lord. We give:
So, we come to church to worship together, we commit to being part of this community, this family of faith.
We give: Our time and our skills
We give our time to support the work of the church – be on a team – and there will be plenty of opportunities moving forward but for now, treasurer, café, prayer min, reading, cleaning, churchyard/practical/ summer outreach.
We give of Our finances
We support the work of the church with what we have financially. Giving – PGS scheme or basket – Gift day..
Let’s give in faith because we trust God has led us to this point – trust that God spoke to the bishop to bring about this partnership rather than putting in a part time priest or join us with another church.
let’s give in faith because we trust that God brought me here to work with all of you
let’s give in faith because we trust in the vision team and process – trust in our own prayers
Trust in the vision that will be shared shortly that it is where God is leading us.
No matter our own thoughts, or what we would have done, or what we think is best. But
In faith, trusting in all that God has led us to, though we can’t see the future, we can have
confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we don’t yet see.
In Jesus name.