Summary: Oh, yes it is!

A note about this Sermon. You might find it diffult to understand the legal processes of the Church in England, and how the Church in England works, but the first story I tell is true.


Several years ago the Chancellor of an English Diocese got very angry. (He`s the lawyer who looks after the legal interests of the Church in his area).

He got angry for two reasons:

a) The Vicar of the Parish next door to mine had signed a contract for £70,000`s worth of reconstructing of the interior of his Church without getting a faculty. (A faculty is a legal document which gives permission for the work to be done). The Vicar hadn`t started the work - he`d just signed the contract.

b) But the 2nd reason the Chancellor got angry was that the Vicar had signed the contract before he had anything like enough money to pay for it!

The Chancellor wrote in the Diocesan Newsletter telling him off. He said, "This Parish regards its behaviour as a great act of faith....... I regard it as grossly irresponsible. Any Parish that acts in this way risks disciplinary proceedings".

I wrote to him asking him if he was really warning Parishes not to make great acts of faith, or was he just telling us that we must get a faculty before we start doing the work (in which case I agreed with him - it`s a legal protection). He never replied to my letter!

It was interesting to see the results of that act of faith. Despite a lot of opposition from people in the Parish, many of whom never went to Church (and led incidentally by a Methodist and a Roman Catholic), the Church Council began what turned out to be a most beautiful restructuring of the whole of the inside of the premises.......... and, here`s the interesting bit, when they took out the old pews, they discovered extensive dry rot under the floor boards! If they hadn`t decided to act at that time, the floor would have soon collapsed anyway.

Four years later the Bishop of Liverpool, after a visit to the Parish, wrote to the Vicar saying that he was glad that he had taken his stand, despite all the opposition!

There is something quite challenging about a great act of faith, and perhaps its frightening when we see it in others and not in ourselves. We find it hard to understand.

When Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on water, I wonder if the other Disciples said: "Get back in you fool! Have you taken leave of yours senses?"...... and when he began to sink were their doubts confirmed? Humanly speaking Peter shouldn`t have done it..... just as the prostitute shouldn`t have broken open her alabaster box of ointment and poured it over Jesus`s feet. Humanly speaking, it should have been sold and the money given to the poor.

And, humanly speaking four men with their paralysed friend shouldn`t have torn up the roof of the house to get to Jesus. (I wonder if the owner of the house had counted in the cost of a new roof when he invited Jesus to his house!).Yes, there`s something costly involved in a great act of faith, and not many are willing to pay it.

And, humanly speaking, the Church ought to drop the topic of the Second Coming of Jesus from its agenda, because when Jesus spoke about it, and promised that He would come again to rule over the earth with power and great glory, the early Christians took Him at His word, and expected Him to return within a very few years.......and couldn`t understand it when it didn`t happen, so that St. Paul, who had also himself expected the return to be imminent, had to change his mind and prepare for a far longer time-table than anyone had thought likely.

And here we are, at the beginning of the 21st Century after Christ, and it still hasn`t happened..... yet there are still lots of people around who expect it to happen at any moment...... people like the Jehovah`s Witnesses who have been preaching it for the last 130 years, and setting dates when it would happen, and their forecast dates have come and gone (1914, 1918, 1925, 1943, 1975), and when it didn`t happen according to their own particular timetable, tried to get out of it by saying, "Well it did happen, really. He came secretly in Heaven in 1918). But that flies in the face of Christ`s own teaching that "Every eye would see Him, coming in the Clouds in great Glory".

Later the J.W`s said they had "Quit Setting Dates" (but still try to keep their followers on a tiptoe of expectation with vague hints about the imminence of Armageddon. No doubt they have had a field day since September 11th).

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