Today I want to talk about the exciting vision God is leading us into as a church and to update you with some exciting news and developments. With all the depressing and bad news around, I would like to invite you to look ahead with hope, optimism and faith!

The reading from Isaiah 43 is I believe really relevant for us at this time. The people of Israel were in captivity and a long way from home. They had lost everything and asking ‘where is God in the midst of all this?’ As we enter a new year, I want to encourage us to look at this passage and to look in four different directions.

  1. Look Back

At first glance Isaiah seems to contradict himself. He begins by reminding them of all God has done in the past, but then goes on to say ‘‘“Forget the former things;     do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43v18. So what is going on?

I believe God is saying to the people to:

a) Remember the great things I have done for you, but don’t dwell on them.

We have the temptation, either, to look back with rose tinted spectacles; ‘wasn’t it great back then’. Or we dwell too much in the pain and frustration of the recent past.

b) Reflect on where God has been at work.

Looking back over this last year we realise it has been really hard with all that has been lost and we need to take some time to pause and see the good things that have come out of it. The increased Community support, the amazing resilience of our Key Workers, people praying more and exploring faith looking for answers.

c) Rejoice and praise God even during the darkest times.

Isaiah says ‘the people I formed for myself, that they may proclaim my praise’. The church throughout history, in the midst of pain, suffering and difficulty have chosen to continue to praise God.

Two songs of praise that have really helped me during this time are:

  • I raise a Hallelujah…

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm

Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar

Up from the ashes, hope will arise

Death is defeated, the King is alive!

  • The Blessing

Around the world churches have prayed out a prayer of peace over the nations using this song.

  1. Look Around

Isaiah says to the people to look around them. ‘I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland’. It’s pretty bleak as they look at the way back to the promised land. A desert that is barren, empty and lacking in resources. As we look around our town, nation and the world, things look bleak. People are worn out, tired with nations facing huge debts.

It is in this place of hardship and frustration that we need to look up.

  1. Look Up

Isaiah tells the people that God will provide for them. ‘The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.’

This is a promise that Jesus picks up on 1500 years after Isaiah.  ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’

John 7v37

In the midst of the wastelands around us today, God offers living water. Firstly, to drink deeply ourselves, and then flowing out from us into our community. God continues to speak words of hope and life into our personal lives and the life of the church.

One of the real encouragements over the last few months have been our prayer gatherings on Zoom. We have had a number of pictures and prophetic words. These include:

Several pictures of things going well,

  • streams of water flowing,
  • precious oil making things work,
  • clean working farm with everyone engaged,
  • cog moving and functioning ready to link with other ideas and people

Some other words:

  • Gardener clearing up in a garden, clearing out plants that had had their season.
  • There was a sense of prepared soil being left for a certain time, waiting for the right time for things to come into being.

God is preparing us as a church for new work which will be beautiful for him. We must be patient for Him as he prepares the soil and does the work being faithful in prayer

  • Picture of jigsaw with no edges: lots of pieces and a few gaps, but God is placing every piece and it keeps on growing, there’s no limit.

Through these pictures, we sense God is saying, ‘I am at work and preparing things for the future’.

  1. Look Ahead

So as we look to the future, there is a real feeling that the words God spoke to Isaiah are really relevant for us today. ‘See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’

Debbie and I have been at St Andrew’s for over twelve years and seen different seasons of growth and change. Now, as we look ahead to the next five years it is the most excited and expectant that I have ever been. Why? Because God has  gone ahead of us in a most amazing way.

Following the provision to revive a struggling church at SMG, a great leader in Jonny Dade, a wonderful team and the resources to get us going, we have now been designated a Resource Church for the town of High Wycombe.

What this means for us is that we will have:

  • Town-Wide Vision – To widen our horizon from the local parish to whole town of High Wycombe.
  • Church Planting – two significant church plants over the next 6 year
  • Equipping Churches – Providing training, equipping and support churches across the town to begin new forms of mission, outreach and growth
  • Deepen our roots – Equipping and Training the community at St Andrew’s to grow healthy and strong.
  • Continue to overflow with Generosity of our finances and people

The funding we have received is to enable us to invest in people. Today we can announce the appointment of two new roles at St Andrew’s based on the funding we have been given by the Church Commissioners and the Oxford Diocese.

  1. Associate Minister. Having a focus on St Andrew’s, this role is to enable discipleship, training, small group development and prayer. This new minister will be Ant Dixon and you can find out more about him here
  2. Pioneer Curate. This role is to join St Andrew’s as well as some time with St Mary and St George, to train as a curate and then build a team to begin something new in the Wycombe area. Our new Pioneer curate will be Simon Russell and you can find out more about him here.

These are two different roles but with the same vision. To grow and develop St Andrew’s to serve and resource the churches across High Wycombe.

Finally, we want to develop our church building through the Nexus Project. At this stage we are taking this time to review our progress particularly in the light of the growing Resource Church Vision, the Covid Pandemic and the funding we already have in place for the Nexus Project.

 As we enter 2021, even though it feels difficult and barren in these early stages, we believe that God is calling us to step out with this audacious vision. One that will require real faith, energy, perseverance, and trust. Do pray that as we see this vision unfold, we continue to follow God’s leading and direction and that each of us is able to step into the part God has us to play.

Simon Dust