Doing What You Couldn't

John 14:12: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whoever believes in me will also do the works
that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the father."


It was July 1951 when the Reverend Vivian Symons, an ex-army major, first saw St. Mark?s, Biggin Hill.
The church was situated on the outskirts of the town, and was less than half a mile away from
the famous Battle of Britain Air Force Base of the same name.

To most people the church was unattractive.
Made out of corrugated metal, it was known as the "tin tabernacle?, and had been erected in 1904
as a temporary structure until a more permanent and beautiful building could be afforded.
The church had acquired a new site in 1921, but financial pressure had stopped work.

By 1951, the wooden frame of the church had rotted.
The corrugated metal had rusted, and the new site was cluttered with rubbish and weeds.

It did not take the new minister long to realise that their first priority was to turn the dream
of a new church into some form of reality.
The question was: how could they do it?

On the one hand the church had very little money, and it was hard to see how they could raise
the amount needed for a new building.
On the other hand, even if the church could raise the money, rationing and the post war limitations
on new buildings would mean that they would not be able to buy raw materials.

Many people might have given up when faced with such problems.
But Vivian Symons had a brilliant (or crazy) idea. He wrote to all of the bishops in the London diocese
and asked them if they had any redundant or bomb damaged churches.

He proposed to choose the best one available and literally to dismantle it and move it away.
By good fortune, or more rightly by the grace of God, the bishop of Southwark was quite taken with his idea.

And within months he was given a list of bombed out buildings which could provide
at least some brick and stone.
So he and his wardens spent several weeks looking at all the available sites.
Until one day they saw it!

All Saints Peckham was a brick and stone building that had a glorious chancel arch and several
impressively carved window frames.
And Symons knew that it was just what he needed.

The problem was, once the congregation from Biggin Hill had their bomb damaged building in Peckham,
how on earth were they going to move it.
Demolition experts told them that they could have it down in several days.
But the church could neither afford the cost of doing so, or risk losing the valuable building material
by allowing someone to literally smash it down.

So over the next few weeks, members of the church looked around.
And it?s amazing how things had changed.

Vivian Symons did what he couldn't.
He moved an old church, All Saints, from Peckham in Southeast London to Biggin Hill, 17 miles away.
There he rebuilt it, naming it the Church of St. Mark.

No – he didn't raise the money, and pay a contractor to do the job.
He did it himself.

All Saints Church was 90 feet high, 130 feet long, 43 feet wide.
He demolished it, and carried it 17 miles, and rebuilt it.
And now Biggin Hill has a "village cathedral."
Vivian Symons did what he couldn't.

In a period of six years and eight months, this determined person, with no special manual skill,
mastered 16 new skills.
He became a truck driver, a building demolisher, bricklayer, stone-mason, plumber, electrician, wood carver,
landscape gardener, painter, carpenter, tiler, crane operator, glazier, scaffolder, goldsmith and silver smith.
(The full story is told in an article, "The Faith That Moved a Church," in the Reader's Digest, April, 1965."

Christians have been doing what they couldn't ever since the Day of Pentecost in the first century.

This was the expectation of Jesus.

Jesus said in John 14:12: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, whoever believes in me will also do the works
that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the father
."

The power of a great expectation lifts a person up to a higher level in achievement.
The player in a game exceeds himself when his loved ones are in the stands.
The student taking his examination is quicken intellectually by the expectation of a parent or a friend.
Jesus expects His followers to do great things.
And because of their love for Him, they will do them.

Human need spurs a Christian to do better than he could do otherwise.

There was a need at Biggin Hill for something to take the place of the corrugated-iron ,
fifty year old building called the "tin tabernacle."
Vivian Symons was stirred to action by the need of his parishioners.

This is the story of Christian missions yesterday and today.
People did more than they could do in building schools, opening hospitals and blazing evangelistic trails.
People of ordinary intellectual ability learned difficult languages, translated the Scriptures,
and lifted people out of savagery.
They are still doing this in America and in countries around the world.

It is by men and women and young people daring beyond their own capacity to do that for drug addicts
and for the poor and lost people who are being rescued from their horrible living conditions.

A great expectation, and the spur of human need are not enough to cause a person to go
beyond his powers of doing.
He must have a source of power beyond his own.
Jesus said to His disciples, "Ye shall receive power.…"
And they received the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Almost immediately after this experience, Peter and John were stopped by a crippled beggar
at the gate called "Beautiful".
They did not have a single cent.
But they did have power, and by that power from God, they lifted up a crippled man to health and strength.

Therein lies the secret of going beyond our powers.
Vivian Symons had this to say: "People think I was alone. But I wasn't.
I was working for a good Master, who was always by my side
."

God's divine power was available.
When a person uses up all his own power and receives the divine energy from God, he exceeds himself,
and does more -- and does it better than he could ever do.

This is sermon has been adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L White
(Some of this sermon was found in The Minister's Manual of 1967, page 155)