Yesterday I was due to preach at Hanham Mount, and just before we were due to start it began to rain.
Ironically we had decided to do this in August because the weather would be better!
Hanham Mount is a local landmark, a Methodist world heritage site. It is where Whitefield and then Wesley preached the good news of the Kingdom of God to the Kingswood Miners. Wesley was an unusual choice, unlike the effervescent George Whitefield, Wesley was serious, academic and high church -maybe not the first guy you’d think of delivering lecturers to the U.K’s toughest community at that time. Wesley had reservations, unsure that preaching not in a Church building was quite ‘proper’ -until perhaps he read the sermon on the mount which was delivered outside! Anyway, here on this spot was Wesley’s first outdoor sermon to 16’000 Kingswood Miners, where many responded and even cried ‘white tears of repentance’ the tears cutting rivets through their sooty faces, and then went on to change the nation.
On this place I have prayed Habakkuk’s prayer “Lord, I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, renew them in our day, and in your wrath remember mercy”. I want to remind people of their history, of God moving in their community, and remind them that God is able to do it again!”.
A large drop of water splashed on my head.
I felt for my keys in my dampening pocket, I could just about fly back home and get the keys for the nearest of my Churches (although the Church has not been very into mission/prayer etc and getting worshippers/prayers out of the rain probably would illicit an angry email from some officious member first thing on Monday morning).
I prayed that God would stop the rain, I prayed loudly with authority, even prayed in tongues and the rain carried on, and if anything it got worse.
James, the worship leader appeared, having came up from Bedminster on the bus (he looked pretty soaked already!) I looked down and my T’shirt and posh jacket combination -really not dressed for an open air service in the rain (sometimes I am a bit of a muppet).
“What do we do James?” -deep down I wanted to carry on regardless- but didn’t want to make the poor guy even wetter!
“As I was praying I felt God remind me of the verse: ‘I will build my Church and even the gates of hell won’t prevail against us'” James replied.
“Well, if the even the gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church of Christ we’re not going to be stopped by a bit of rain!” I replied, hoping that it wouldn’t just be James and I crazy enough to pray in the wet.
Suddenly Mike appeared from around the corner, and carrying a spare water-proof jacket, which felt like not only God’s instructions to carry on, but also God’s grace and love.
A moment later two older people from One Church came to join us, they’d seen an advert on the internet.
We began to worship, I was a bit worried about James’ guitar, as I’m sure shed-loads of water couldn’t do it any good. Then a young guy came around the corner cuddling a toddler, a spare brolly was passed to him, and he joined with us.
Then two friends Paul and Mark appeared, Paul in his brightest bandana and carrying a Shofa, and we joined in singing worship and prayers of intersession to God.
I had a talk prepared all about the difference between Samson and Gideon (maybe will be posted on here one day!) but it didn’t feel right.
So, I began to share about a picture God had given me for Kingswood, its in the Bible where Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to settle the dispute between them and the followers of the one true God and their Idol once and for all. It was a completion, where the prophets of Baal had an altar prepared and they prayed that their God would send sacrifice and burn up the offering. They prayed, shouted, cut themselves with knives whilst Elijah jeered at them. Then when it was Elijah’s turn he dug a trench around the altar and drenched the sacrifice in more and more water until it was soaked (remember this is on top of a mountain and in a drought).
And then he prayed.
And God sent the fire.
Yet I often feel a bit like the sacrifice, awaiting God’s fire and feeling like another bucket of water has been chucked on us, dosed with more discouragements, but then when it was impossible for humans to make the fire come, God showed up and burned up the sacrifice and dried up all the water, and even the stones!
I shared about the verse that my friend Mark gave us with the street pastors “Do not grow weary in doing good for at the right time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up” (Galatians 6.9).
I began to explore how a little discouragement can cause our Churches to stall in their Kingdom work of mission and ministry… but God can still bring the fire despite the discouragement.
I began to explore how we personally can experience a little discouragement and our own Christian lives can grind to a halt too.
I urged us all (myself included) to not let discouragement keep us from seeing God break through and “send the fire”.
The previous week Regan had spoken on Is. 55 (the text for Wesley’s first sermon) but ended up talking about Habakkuk 3 (Habakkuk again!):
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour”.
Even when it is tough and hard and encouragements are few and far between lets hang on to the truth that God is good, God loves us and God is longing to be made known in this area, God is an interventionist God, he wants to break through and be known by the world he created and died to redeem.
So, the challenge is to keep on proclaiming Jesus and wait for him to show up and send his fire.
As we think of waiting on the Lord, we need to remember his heart and his faithfulness.
That it is God himself who is the missionary God.
We simply love because he first loved us and gave his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
I remember when we first started Street and School Pastors, couldn’t get anyone to join with us, until Michael Eden the Salvation Army Captain volunteered, our first meeting was pouring with rain, but both of us felt God say “still go out” and I think this was where God tested our hearts to see how much we wanted to see him glorified.
When seeking God’s glory are we going to give up at the first hurdle, the first pot of rain, or are we going to say “bring it on” and follow Christ knowing that when we trust in his faithfulness he will never let us down.
So we preached that message, with prayers and praise, in the rain, and I believe it blessed the heart of God.