Bishop Harold Miller spoke at the final evening celebration of New Horizon 2015. Here the NH Media Team brings you a summary of his message.
New Horizon really is in so many ways a foretaste of heaven worshipping together. We’re looking at the theme of “An unconditional love for tomorrow.” Over these days, we’ve been talking about the big story of God’s love, of a God who has always loved, of a God who brought creation into being because of His love, of a God who keeps loving humanity no matter how many things we do wrong, whose name is love and whose love endures forever.
When visiting Niagara Falls, God showed me that the water was a picture of His mercy. His mercy endures forever. There is more mercy and grace and love in the heart of God than we would ever need. If we get too close, we would be drowned in it! There never comes a point in our lives when there isn’t more grace, mercy and love.
God loves you forever!
I was once visiting Washington DC and we passed a black Pentecostal Church. A big mamma invited us to come inside! I’ve never forgotten that church. They were so welcoming. When they discovered we were pastors, they asked us to bless the choir. And when the offering was taken and there wasn’t enough – they sent around the baskets a second time!
There was a woman preacher who was talking on the verse, “God is our refuge and strength, our very present help in time of trouble.” She encouraged everyone to turn to their neighbour and say, “The devil is defeated.”
I want you to know, not just through my preaching tonight but personally that God has set His love on you forever. [Turn to your neighbour and say, “God loves you forever.”]
There is a big story that holds us together, which is revealed by God in His word, into which we enter, by which we understand our lives, which makes our lives meaningful. An awful lot of worship is to do with remembering. We come to remember. What do we do when we celebrate the Lord’s supper, we remember the Lord’s death until He comes. We have been wonderfully remembering the story of our salvation, of His love right through from Genesis. Tonight we are going to remember in a different way.
Remembering forward to a world restored
The big story that has been revealed to us in the scriptures, tells us, not just what has happened but what is going to happen when the world is restored. The last part of the big story… tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Reading from Revelation 21: 1 – 7
An unconditional love that creates a new heaven and a new earth
If you haven’t read Tom Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope” – get it and read it!
Another friend who was also called Tom asked me to conduct his funeral and he had written the sermon, “Begone all those angels floating in clouds, playing their harps. Begone all those cherubs with sculpted buttocks. I think what is going to happen when I arrive is that Jesus will meet me and say, ‘Tom, come and have breakfast.’”
It is true that our citizenship is in heaven. It is true that we await a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body to be made like His glorious body. The resurrection body of Jesus is a prototype with us.
Do you believe in the resurrection of the body? 1 Corinthians 15: 42 “So it is with the resurrection of the dead… it is raised a supernatural body.” The big story, the big news is that some of us only believe in part one – absent from the body and present with the Lord. The final destination is a new heaven and a new earth. Christ has gone before and I who am in Christ will be like Him.
God’s making of the heavens and the earth is the first Creation. The making of the new heaven and the new earth is the New Creation. Tears are wiped away and pain is gone. The unconditional love of God endures forever.
An unconditional love that walks with us through death
The only thing that is certain is that every single one of us is going to die. And the scriptures reveal different ways of approaching that truth. Paul says, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” The rich fool says the same, “You have many things stored up so relax, eat, drink and be merry.”
The most natural worldly approach to our inevitable death is to gather as much for ourselves, achieve as much for ourselves, enjoy ourselves as much as we can because tomorrow we are going to die. It is one of the saddest thing.
The second approach is to always be ready. Prepare while you have time and realise that God is in sovereign control. You do not know what tomorrow will bring.
Psychologists say that the thing that we need to know as we come to the latter stages of our lives is that they have integrity, that they make sense, that there is a story we can tell that makes our life meaningful. There may be people here that they only have a limited time to live or people here with friends and relatives in that situation.
There are other people here who have a limited time to live but don’t know it. We are mortal. We are human. I don’t like fatalism but I do love a hymn by St Columba on this subject. Nobody sings it so imagine it is a poem
“Alone with none but thee my God, I journey on my way. What need I fear when thou art near, Oh King of night and day, more safe am I within thy hand than if a host around would stand. The child of God can fear no ill, his chosen dread no foe… tis not from chance, our comfort springs, thou art our trust, oh king of kings.”
I went to see Derek Bingham when he was close to his death and I brought him Holy Communion. He told me, “I want you to tell everybody how the Lord has been with me at the very end!”
There was one verse that I particularly wanted to read to Derek and they were the last words I said to him before he entered eternity.
“Be thou my consolation, my shield when I must die, remind me of thy passion, when my last hour draws nigh, my eyes shall then behold thee, upon thy cross shall dwell my heart by faith enfold thee, who dieth thus, dies well!”
An unconditional love that sees ourselves as part of the big story
We are only part of God’s plan, we are not the whole of God’s plan. After this week, Maud, if God wills it, will go back to Congo to the place where she was shot! Iain will return to Vancouver. Ben and Gloria will go back to Jos, to a dangerous and uncertain situation in Nigeria. Most of us will go back to our own homes and situations. We are going to live our part between this moment and the day we die for God and God’s glory alone.
We are only part of the story but our part of the story in the plan of God is a part that only we can play. We are determined to live for God and breathe for God until the very last day until He calls us into His presence. One of the things that we have been talking about as we go out into tomorrow and one of the themes that has been around is the fact that we also need to pass the baton on to a new generation.
Elijah had to pass on the mantel to Elisha. One of the things we want to do at the end of this New Horizon is to pass on the mantel to a new generation. “I see a generation rising up to take its place, with selfless faith.”
We want to pass on the baton. We are here in this place tonight because St. Patrick proclaimed the Gospel and passed on the baton. Then the Bangor saints went out into a darkened Europe and passed on the baton.
Meanwhile God’s unconditional love will be seen in our lives and heard in our words and passed on to others.
“You have given us the faith of Jesus Christ in this land through many generations. And we pray now that you will enable this faith to be faithfully passed on from generation to generation so it will never cease to be proclaimed in this land. And that it will never cease to be proclaimed…”
“… correct what is amiss and supply what is lacking that we may more and more bring forth fruit to your honour and glory.”