Each year in October we mark our Church Anniversary, but we also have an Annual General Meeting in May. In effect both meetings have a similar purpose – to reflect on the work of God at Emmanuel, but there are slightly different emphases in each meeting. In May we reflect on what has been done in the previous year, while in October we remind ourselves of how the work started. Similarly in May we recognise and affirm people in particular ministries, while in October we remind ourselves of our Lord’s commitment, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18), and acknowledge the truth of Ps. 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain”.
So let’s take time to reflect on the work of God in 2018. It has not been a simple year, because we have suffered the effects of sickness and bereavement. A significant number of families have suffered the loss of loved ones and others have known the demands of life caused by age, ongoing sickness and pain. We acknowledge that we live in a world that continues to suffer the effects of The Fall. Sickness and death are inescapable parts of life this side of eternity, even for the redeemed people of God.
In the wider world we have seen the advance of secularism as the things of God are not only neglected, but horribly opposed. Alongside that, there seems to be so much uncertainty about how Brexit will happen and what effects it will have on our individual and shared lives. It would be so easy to withdraw and live a secluded life. That has never been God’s purpose; we are to be witnesses of God’s grace in this world which He is redeeming.
What are we to do then? The answer is found in the bible..
Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. (Exodus 14:13, 14)
Firstly, we are to live in faith, “Fear not” and not be threatened by those who want to oppose the great works of God. We are to “Stand firm” on the Truth and promises of God’s Word, that have brought us to this point in our lives. During this year we have witnessed marriages ordained of God, within the church family. We have seen children born and people professing their faith as they have been added to the membership of the Church. God is continuing to save and restore His people. This has not only happened within our immediate work at Emmanuel, but where we have sent workers in camps, conferences and mission fields people have been saved. He is at work. He has not opened a path through the Red Sea for us, but He has certainly led us forward.
We do not face Egyptians as a nation, but we face people and forces who would want to lead people into slavery, or to take them back into the many forms of moral and spiritual slavery that trap people in our world today. Jesus Christ was sent into the world to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8), and He has done that in His death and resurrection. Death has been conquered, but He continues to do it today through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom He, with God the Father has sent into the world. It delights me to see and hear people, who have been trapped by fear taking their part in the work of God as they help with various ministries; as they lead us in prayer at church or in local groups. Similarly it is good to see those once bound by different forms of ‘slavery’ enjoying freedom in God.
So as we remember 152 years of God working in Pill through the church let us enjoy the deliverance and enabling that He gives to us. Moses pointed the people to the promises of God, but when the sea was opened they had to go forward in faith, believing that the God who had saved would provide and keep. He did that and continues to do that today. Let us go forward in faith.
Your fellow-traveller with God,