Journeying with God

Acts 5:30-32
Psalm 25
Genesis 12:1-3

You know you’re getting old when the candles on your birthday cake contribute to global warming.

A reporter was interviewing a 104 year-old woman: “And what do you think is
the best thing about being 104?” the reporter asked.
She simply replied, “No peer pressure.”

Clement Freud, towards the end of his life, said that his wife had asked him to come upstairs and make love. His reply was, “which do you want – you can’t have both!”

People tell me they’re getting old, they can’t do what they used to do. They want more time for themselves. Although a 101 year old insisted that ones 90s were merely “late middle age”.

Imagine how Abram felt. A very old man, he was called by God to leave everything behind and travel to a far off country. “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” says the Lord. Abram was stepping into the unknown. He was leaving everything that was safe and familiar, his home, his friends, his country, his people, to journey to an unknown land. Once you feel you’ve reached a good age, most people look forward to retiring. I’m sure Abram could be forgiven for looking forward to a quiet retirement in his home city of Harran, not setting out on this great adventure.

Put yourself in Abram’s position for a moment. How do you think you would feel if to uproot yourself and leave everything behind, and travel into the unknown?

It’s not clear how Abram received his call, whether God spoke clearly to him one day, or whether he had a growing sense that this was what God wanted him to do. But what is clear, is that Abram had cultivated the habit of listening for God’s voice and responding to it.

Listening to God, and discerning what God is calling us to do can be challenging. The reason many of us feel God doesn’t speak to us, is because we haven’t succeeded in finding ways to listen to him. Most of us want God to shout loud and clear, but God rarely shouts to us, instead he whispers softly.

If we want to hear God’s voice, rather than expecting God to shout to us from across our busy lives we need to try and find ways to listen for God’s whisper in our ear. You can only hear a whisper when you’re standing next to the person you’re talking to, so that your ears and their mouth are intimately close, and I think that is why God whispers to us today, because God wants us to be close to him.

Abram hearing God’s call, responds and actually does something. It was a response that was based on love and trust. Although Abram was venturing into the unknown, he trusted that God would not fail him. He knew that whatever challenges or obstacles, dangers or threats he would face, God would be there for him, and help him to overcome them.

At the moment we’re on something of a journey as we consider the future of our church buildings, and whether it might be in our best interests, which means whether it’s in the best interests of God’s mission through us, to undertake a more major project than simply stumping up ever increasing sums of money to repair our premises, keeping them as they are, or whether the upheaval, grant applications, fundraising, and yet more disruption will be worth the eventual outcome of a building fit for the twenty-first century, much easier to clean, maintain, and heat. I don’t pretend it’s as important as what Abram faced, but it is a big thing for folk who aren’t getting any younger to contemplate. From the way I phrased that, you’ll have realised that as your Minister, I think we need to grasp this opportunity with both hands, but it’s not my decision, rather ours, as we seek what God wants in the weeks ahead.

However, before we decide whether we’re setting off on that journey or not, we need think about what kind of church we want to be, who we are, why we’re here, and what we’re trying to do. I’m sure if I gave you a blank sheet of paper that would seem a very daunting set of questions to try and answer, but we’ve been thinking about that directly and indirectly, for many years, and we’ve been putting it into practice for years and years, so it isn’t a blank sheet.

You do, though, have a blank sheet in front of you, and there are pens on the shelves. I’m going to ask you to think about some questions, and I hope some of you will write down something for some of them. It’s anonymous, so you can be as blunt as you like. It’s not so much about whether we’re going on a journey with God, but which way the journey might go. Earlier in the service I talked about being a witness to what Jesus has done, and telling other people about Jesus. What we’re thinking about now is the same thing, but for the church: how does our church tell people about Jesus?

So, the first question is what is special about our church for you? Why do you come to this church, rather than another church? I suppose it might be something about the people, or the style of service, or because someone introduced you, or someone brought you, or any manner of other reasons. Why do you come to this church?

I’m going to pause a moment, so that you can write something down, if you possibly can.

Next question, how could we improve our church if you could? Perhaps it might be something about the worship style, the sermons, the music, the buildings, the people? How could we improve our church if you could?

I’m going to pause a moment, so that you can write something down, if you possibly can.

Next, do you feel it’s important that we engage with people through the week, who we encounter through the coffee bar, through people who use our buildings, who encounter as we go about our lives? Is it important that we engage during the week, or is it Sundays that matters most?

I’m going to pause a moment, so that you can write something down, if you possibly can.

Final question, what would you miss if our church wasn’t here? Ideally, I’m hoping for something that you can’t get in another church. What would you miss if our church wasn’t here?

I’m going to pause a moment, so that you can write something down, if you possibly can.

If you want to write any more down, you can do that as the service goes on.

I began by saying Abram thought he was too old, but he responded to God’s call. Whether we feel old or young, God’s calling us on a journey with him. The thing we need to listen for, I suggest, is not whether we’re going on a journey, but what kind of journey it is, and where it might be going? Whatever the answers to those questions are, it’s about how we are witnesses to Jesus as our church community, how we tell and show others about the love God has for everyone, which we’ve seen and experienced in Jesus.

May our hearts, our minds, our souls, our ears, our eyes, be open to God. May we seek to find what God wants of us, and may we have the faith to try to do what we think he asks of us.

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