It’s the time of year for our church directory to be published.
What’s your favourite page? With the celebration of our Scout Group’s Centenary at Cranham on Saturday you might turn the page for Scouts and Guides.
I quite like the page that comes next, identifying some of the groups that regularly use our church premises. Among those are a couple of new groups who have started using the rooms recently.
Narcotics Anonymous and
Two groups that belong to two quite independent organisations, that have related goals and methods in responding to two of the most critical problems our society faces.
The value of a self-help group where anonymity is respected and where the support of developing friendships can be so important.
AA is marked out by their Twelve Step programme. It is fascinating to see the part a ‘Power greater than ourselves’, ‘God as we understand him’ has to play in the programme that has made such a difference to so many people. You can pick out some of the most prominent of those references:
• We admitted we were powerless
• Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us …
• Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
• Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
In one of his most powerful quotations Jesus said, “Have faith in God.”
Have Faith in God
In the Twelve Steps of AA and in those few words of Jesus is the recognition of a need we share for a strength, a power, a presence beyond ourselves. That strength, that power, that presence is the God Jesus invites us to have faith in.
Such faith can make all the difference.
A prayer that has meant a great deal to members of AA and to many others is the prayer of Pastor Niemoller …
God, grant me
the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference.
How often have people found the footprints poem a source of comfort and strengthening …
Two sets of footprints in the sand … and then at the most troubled of times only one set of footprints. Where, O where, is God’s presence in those most troubled times. Then comes the voice of God,
“During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Have faith in God … He only is my rock and my salvation!
Have faith in God … how important that invitation of Jesus is!
It is not insignificant that those words are shared by Jesus with his friends as his final hour approaches. It’s the last week of his life – his time of trial and suffering. It is the Tuesday of Holy Week. On the Sunday he made his triumphal entry on a colt, the foal of an ass and wept over Jerusalem, Would that you had known the things that make for peace, he lamented, but you did not.
On the Monday he passed a fig tree with no fruit and cursed it … a curious thing to do, though one has the feeling his actions were symbolic of all that was going on that week, passing on from that fig tree he went down the steep road from Bethany, across the Kedron Valley and up on to the magnificent Temple Mount. An architectural tour de force symbolic of the fearful might of Herod the Great and the Herodian family in their power play with Rome, in many ways a denial of the very heart of all that the Hebrew Scriptures Jesus knew so well stood for … he berated those who had corrupted the Temple so much … My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of thieves.
It was on the Tuesday, as they were making their way along the same route that the disciples noticed the fig tree had withered and died. Remarkable, disturbing … was this symbolic of something that was going on?
“Have faith in God, says Jesus.
“Truly, I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.”
Facing a personal time of suffering and trial that would lead to the God-forsakenness of the cross, facing a city that did not know the things that make for peace, facing a house of prayer that had become a den of thieves,
Jesus knew the importance of faith.
What kind of faith moves mountains?
The kind of faith that would move mountains.
But what kind of faith is that? What kind of faith moves mountains?
There are two words of significance in what Jesus goes on to say.
So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
In prayer visualize things as they might be, see the vision. For it is as you dream the things that might be and see the vision of what seems impossible that your prayer begins to find its answer.
What’s in your heart as you pray is important too.
‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you.
Two words to underpin our prayer.
This is one of those sayings of Jesus that made all the difference to Paul. It is in his wonderful poem, celebrating the power of love in I Corinthians 13 that he takes up this word picture of Jesus … and fills out what needs to be in our heart as we have this kind of faith …
If I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love I am nothing.
What kind of faith moves mountains?
A believing faith
A forgiving faith
A loving faith
A Twist in the Tale
The Parable of the Mountain that Moves packs an unexpected punch. For that’s not the only question posed by this parable.
One question I asked of a guide I met on my recent visit to the Holy Land was … are there any passages of the Bible that you would read quite differently in the light of your understanding of the local geography?
Without a moment’s hesitation came the reply pointing me to the mountain that faith could move.
What mountain do you think that might be?
What kind of mountains does faith move?
After all, Jerusalem is built on the top of a whole range of mountains that goes from North to South of Palestine / Israel.
The temple is built on a mount. How Herod the Great had transformed that Temple – to create his remarkable Temple Mount he had literally had to re-build the top of the Mountain – an incredible feat of engineering that amounted to virtually moving a mountain – a massive statement of power, power in collaboration with Rome. Over against that mount is the Mount of Olives.
And beyond Betlehem, well within sight of the Theological Institute where we were staying, was another mountain full of menace in the days of Jesus.
It was the site of the magnificent palace Herod the Great had built. Another statement of sheer, unadulterated power in collaboration with Rome.
To build his palace he had literally had to move another mountain. It would be the place of his burial. And the tomb was discovered only six months ago!!
In the light of those mountains and the power-statements they make, Jesus’ comments about the faith that moves mountains prompts a question – what kind of mountains does faith move?
In our stay in the Holy Land it was disturbing to see and witness at first hand the power play that is wreaking such havoc among ordinary people. The sewing rooms we visted in an orphanage in Hebron which have since been completely ransacked and destroyed by Israeli soldiers.
The political situation with its massive power statements was indeed a mountain. The lack of hope in the eyes of so many suggests it is a massive mountain.
Is there hope?
And yet, in amongst the devastation we witnessed people of remarkable faith, remarkable courage and remarkable hope.
Not least, that Christian Peacemaker Team, simply being ‘a presence’ in the midst of the hostilities of Hebron, seeking to be peace-makers.
This is the kind of believing faith, forgiving faith, loving faith that can move mountains.
It is the kind of faith that has a resounding answer to give another question:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
3637No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
38For I am convinced that
neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.