Chick was invited to preach at the service organised by the churches in Manchester and the Conservative Christian Fellowship as part of the Conservative Party Conference.
This is his sermon on that occasion, slightly ammended for publication.
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Conservative Party Conference
Welcome to Manchester Service
Tuesday 6th October, 2009 Text: Isaiah 58:6-12
There are many in 21st century Britain who would question the rightness of a Christian worship service being linked in any way with a party conference. I am clearly not one of them - and that for reasons that I can articulate briefly and simply.
The Christian faith is not merely a private matter - something between a man or a woman and their God. There is far too much in the teaching of Jesus about love for others and justice for the oppressed for that to be true
On the other hand, I do not believe that the church should have a privileged place in society. We live in post-modern, post-Christendom, multi-cultural Britain and I, for one, do not seek to turn the clock back.
Our calling is neither to personal piety for ourselves nor to a crusading pursuit of power for the church. Our calling is to express our faith in the public arena, not by forcing it on others but by living it out in every area of life.
It is most definitely not the role of the church to politically endorse any party. But equally certainly, it is our task to prophetically engage with those who serve us and lead us in politics. I want to offer you four reasons why that is both our right and our responsibility.
The church calls us to a point of reference
In every human enterprise - perhaps especially in those that set out with high ideals - there lies the danger of expediency: principles can be abandoned and people can be trampled in pursuit of even the highest of goals.
I would not suggest for one moment that Christians and other people of faith are the only ones with a moral compass, but it seems to me that the beliefs to which we are committed provide an ultimate point of reference for all human endeavours including the political arena. If, as we believe:
the world is the creation of a good God
all human beings are made in his image
God, whom Christians describe as trinity, is in his own being community and has created us for community
God loves the world so much that he gave his own Son to die for it
If all that is true, there is a clear point of reference for how we live, how we treat each other, how we conduct business, and how we do politics.
It means that in politics, as in every human endeavour, we must act in such a way that everything we do demonstrates our commitment to
Respect for human dignity
Encouraging personal responsibility
Working for a healthy society
The church has a proven track record
There is no other group of people spread throughout our nation like the church.
In every town, city and village throughout Britain, the Christian church is present and active. We’re by no means perfect in our efforts to be the body of Christ on earth - but we are there!
And in so many places - often the most needy areas in our society - these Christian churches are not just gatherings of the faithful.
Ask who is running
youth clubs, after-school clubs, breakfast clubs, homework clubs,lunch clubs for the elderly and a thousand and one other projects
And again and again, you’ll get the same answer: It’s the church!
Ask who are the people volunteering as
school governors, local councillors, community activists
And again and again, you’ll get the same answer: it’s members of the church and followers of Jesus who are seeking to make their communities better and safer places.
We have a right to be heard simply because we’re there
And - more importantly - we have a responsibility to speak for those who often cannot speak for themselves.
We don’t ask to be the only voice in our nation. But we are an important voice which cannot and must not be stifled.
The church wants to partner in renewal
All of us here this evening - whether we are part of the church in Manchester or members of the Conservative Party - are in the business of renewal. We want to change things for the better.
Politicians who imagine that this can be done merely by improving the environment in which people live without recognising and addressing their deepest spiritual needs are mistaken.
That way lies the disillusionment of empty materialism
But so are Christians who imagine that the job of the church is simply to prepare people for the life to come.
That way lies the escapism of the religious ghetto and the dereliction of our responsibility to work for the Kingdom of God here on earth.
We refuse to accept that there is a division between the sacred and the secular.
We refuse to accept that faith is only about the individual.
Our Christian faith is holistic. We believe that God is concerned about the whole of life.
The scripture that was read earlier calls us to a renewal of our towns and cities.
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
And we will partner with all men and women of good will and with politicians of every hue who are committed to working for the restoration and renewal of our towns and cities.
The church holds the promise of resurrection
But this is perhaps the most important thing that we bring to our society.
The most important thing I will say this evening:
At the heart of the Christian faith is the conviction that God’s new creation has broken into this world, into our time and space, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
And that conviction fuels and fires our hope that what God has done in the resurrection of Jesus he will one day do not only for us but for his entire creation.
So we are not, as some imagine, primarily concerned with going to heaven.
Rather, we are committed to working to bring heaven to earth.
We all know - priests and politicians and all people of goodwill - that every victory for good in this life is partial
We know that this is a fallen world and that there are always injustices to be put right, wounds to be healed, and evils to be eliminated.
We know that there are set-backs and failures.
But we believe that every victory, however small, is worth the winning.
Because one day God will take it up, make it part of his great resurrection project, incorporate it in his great plan of renewal.
The story of the resurrection is a story that everyone who is working for good needs to hear.
It is a truth that everyone working to make a better society needs to grasp
It is a hope that needs to take hold of every one of us if we are not to give up in despair.
Let me end with a personal story.
About 18 months ago a very dear friend of ours, Nicola, died after a magnificent battle with cancer.
Her death might have been seen as just a tragedy.
But on the night she died her husband, Phil, sent a text message to all his friends. There has never been a more glorious text message.
It said simply this:
Nicola died peacefully at 6.00pm this evening to continue her resurrection adventure.
That says it all perfectly and beautifully. Life that is lived for God and for good - with all its setbacks and tragedies - is part of God’s resurrection adventure.
Every good thing that is done, albeit imperfectly, is part of God’s resurrection adventure.
Every act that alleviates human suffering and pain, however seemingly small, is part of God’s resurrection adventure.
So let’s work together to build for the Kingdom of God
in the hope of the renewal of all things
in the promise of the resurrection
and in the pursuit of God’s great adventure
besides which all our political convictions and even our theological constructions are but faint shadows of the great reality for which we strive and which, please God, will one day dawn over our world.