Year Text 2021

Vision Service Sermon

We believe God has called us to build a loving, worshipping, learning, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled fellowship here in Burwell.
Each year we seek a bible passage to inspire and guide us as to how we might go about doing that.  What should we focus on for the year? 

The Elders received several different suggestions for our year text.  Some we will explore in sermon series during the year, the others we felt could be best summed up in this short phrase from Zechariah 4:6…

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.

There were some strong themes in the verses suggested: such as humility and not relying on our own strength but trusting the supernatural ability of God.  We felt this phrase summed up these up.

I will look more closely at the context in coming weeks but this morning I want to highlight that this prophecy came part way through the rebuilding of the temple after the exile.  Zechariah was a priest and a prophet., his name means “The Lord remembers”.  Important for the exiles who may have thought God had forgotten about His promises to them.  At this time Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah and Joshua (not that Joshua) was the high priest.  Zerubbabel led the first group back from Babylon captivity to Jerusalem in the time of Cyrus.  He was a descendant of King David and grandson of Jehoiachin, the next-to-last king of Judah.  His name means seed of Babylon or sifted in Babylon.  As you may know Joshua is the Hebrew version of the name Jesus, which means God saves.   Zerubbabel, Joshua and the prophet Haggai worked alongside one another. They each have different gifts which God brings together at this special time.

The number of people who have returned is small.  The rebuilding has begun, something the exiles have longed and prayed for, but at is only the foundations and it is clear the new temple will be smaller than the old.  It is far from certain that there will be resources to complete even the foundations.  There are certain key moments in the rebuilding of the temple.  In the first Zerubbabel must search through the ruins of the old temple to identify the key stone for the new temple.  He brings it out to the cry “God bless it! God bless it!” literally “Grace! Grace!”.    

It is not the size or splendour of the building that will matter but that God will once again make it the place where His glory dwells.  Those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour are now the dwelling place of the Spirit, so the same applies to us.

As I look ahead into the coming year, I have far less idea about what we will be doing than I thought I had last year!  It is far from certain when it will be safe for us to gather again.  And like the return of the exiles, it may well be a small group who do so first.  It would be easy to lose hope and lose interest in building the local church, but we too have promises from God.  There is a fair amount of metaphorical rubble to be cleared before we can begin to rebuild.  At the heart of the new gathering we must rescue the foundation stone of the old – Grace.

The growth of the Kingdom of God has never depended on our might or power.  It can some times look like it does but that is a deception.  The images Jesus used where always about small apparently insignificant things which grow or transform everything around them.  The Apostle Paul emphasises that is in our weakness what God is strong.  It is the Spirit who empowers us to live a life worthy of the Lord and prepares us for works of service.   We are a small church with big promises from God.  I believe that He has said He will bless us and make us fruitful and increase our numbers until we become a community of peoples. Others have carried the vision of the church being a beacon for many years.  And from the feedback on our walking with God weekend the first line is: I am going to use you to build my Kingdom in this place.

God speaks to Zechariah in visions and prophetic symbols.  When the angel says to Zechariah “Don’t you know what these are?” Zechariah responds “No, my Lord”.   The revelations brought by the Spirit often take some interpretation before we can see what they will mean in practice.  When asked by God what they see the prophets respond literally.  When asked what these things mean they most often respond “You alone know”!  And wait for an explanation.  This requires some humility and patience.  Lots of things are not immediately clear.  Three things are clear in Zechariah’s vision.  Zerubbabel will complete the work he has begun, it will not be by human strength or resources, those looking on should not despise the work of God because it starts small. 

6th February 2020 I sensed God saying that He would make a new move to change the state of play.  He has certainly done that.  Today I want to help you see the small things which God has started and to ask what they could become under the anointing of God.  I am inviting you to see what has begun and not to despise the day of small beginnings.  Instead, to cry “Grace!”

Some of you will have seen these new beginnings in your own lives and I encourage you to ask God what they mean.  It may not be what you imagine.  I want to focus on what I see God doing in the church. 

At the beginning of last year, many of us attended the away day with Rev Ken Benjamin where we were challenged to consider connecting in new ways with those who are not currently coming to church.  He brought what we thought were some quite radical suggestions, for example, that some might not attend the service in the church building for worship one Sunday a month but instead lead intentionally missional gatherings outside the building.  His suggestions seem rather conservative now!

Several people have also part of groups exploring How we grow from here?  Organised by Rev Yinka Oyekan our current president of the Baptist Union.  As I look ahead, I believe the seeds planted through the away day and these groups have huge potential for growth.

I still believe God has called us to build a loving, worshipping, learning, evangelistic, and Spirit-filled fellowship here in Burwell. 

Will you join us in that task this year? 

Zechariah, Haggai, Zerubbabel and Joshua, were sifted through their exile.  Four very different people brought together by a common vision.  It can be no coincidence that we dug deeply in to the book of Esther and learned that God works behind the scenes and is able to turn apparent defeat into victory, to learn that we too have been called from such a time as this. Called to worship, to pray and to work for the coming Kingdom in our day even through times of being scattered.  Let’s lift our eyes above the things which fill our immediate horizon and see what God can do if we humble ourselves under His mighty hand!

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.