I like this picture painted by Ron DiCianni. The sense of Jesus sitting in stillness and holding on while the world continues to move around him. In our scriptures we are told that it is the Holy Spirit that leads to this place of abstinence, testing and loneliness, the Spirit of God who takes him there. From his time in the wilderness Jesus leans into God and emerges the stronger for his time of weakness. He finds strength in God’s word, and those in our church who are doing the ‘Bible Course’ will hopefully be discovering that strength in God’s Word for themselves.
There are times in life when God’s Spirit leads us into the wilderness, times when we are not able to enjoy the usual comforts of life and we have to endure some form of abstinence, times when we find our faith is tempted, times when our weakness is uncovered and all we have left is to trust in God, that he will feed us, he will heal us, he will work when we cannot. When we face those times, we come out stronger, for our faith will not let us down, as we trust in God he will deliver us.
As a church we know that God is good, he loves us and he provides for us. We have seen that recently with our fund raising for the church development. We are so thankful for all who have given so generously and sacrificially to help us raise over the £650,000 needed to start our project. Indeed I would like to say a big thank you to all who have given and pledged over the last few years. The recent gift day was especially good with further gifts and pledges of £52,000 giving us the confidence to move forward and to start construction after Easter.
With the development of the premises comes a number of challenges. The first is the practicalities of moving out as we prepare the church for handover to our contractors. All activities will be moving into the halls from the 19 th April for the first phase of building, and from mid-July to mid-September we will be worshipping and meeting off site; a plan of venues will be at the back of the chapel and will be notified through weekly notes and on the web site. I would ask all the groups to start now the process of clearing out what will not be needed in the new building.
Secondly, we need to keep on praying, there is work still to be done on the interior design and decisions to be made throughout the process, and so may I encourage you to keep on praying for those who are working on this project on a daily basis and looking after the details, the finances and the relationships with the contractors.
The third challenge is about being the church. Our building is a real gift, but it is not the church…. we are! So I hope you will work together to maintain the fellowship, watch out for one another in love and continue to care for each other, even when we don’t have a building as our focus for worship, fellowship and mission. We are delighted that we will be worshipping at Chopwell during the summer months and hope that it will help the different congregations to grow together as one church. In particular we watch and pray for those who are going through a wilderness time and seek to carry them through.
Our God is good, and it is an exciting time to see what he has in store for us, as we continue to be led by God's Spirit.