Daring to See Visions (Easter 6, Year C)

The Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Acts 16:9-15; Revelation
21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29

May 9, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to
come.  Amen.

Our first reading opens with these words:
During the night Paul had a vision:
    there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying,
    "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to
Macedonia,
    being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to
them.

There’s lots to chew on in these first two verses, and indeed in the
whole first reading,
    but I find three things particularly striking:
    Paul had a vision,
    and from that vision his party was convinced
        that God had called them to do something.

Vision, conviction, mission …
Vision.
I’ll admit that for us today the Biblical writings can seem a bit
fanciful,
    with all its tales of visions and dreams and prophetic utterances …
People don’t have visions like that any more, do they?


Well, my mother called me just last evening with a vision of sorts,
    something that came to her in a dream,
    and she wanted to test it out.
She said to me, “Chris, I had a dream the other night,
    and in that dream you called me on Mother’s Day.
    And when you called me on Mother’s Day,
    you told me that you and Jessicah were expecting your fourth child.”
I let her sit on the other end of that phone line in silent suspense for
a few moments,
    before I told her that the vision she received in her dream was far
from 20/20,
    and that Jessicah and I were indeed not having another child.

Yes, we have become suspect of visions – I know I have! –
    be those visions of more children proffered by hopeful grandmothers,

    visions of wealth promised by cable television hucksters,
    or visions of grand political transformation at the hands of an
elected official.
But if we skeptically cast aside visions altogether, we invite our own
destruction.
    for as the old King James translates Proverbs 28:19,
    “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
 
If we depend so much on reason that we give up on dreaming,
    we miss out on the voice of God that spoke to Joseph,
        betrothed to an unwed yet pregnant Mary.
If we give up on dreaming,
    we miss out on the voice that called Jeremiah to be a young yet
faithful prophet;
if we give up on dreaming,
    we miss out on the voice of God that compelled a man named Martin
    to tell us about the dream he had of justice for this land.
For the way I read these verses from Acts,
    the vision from God comes first,
    and from that vision comes a strength of conviction to do something …
    and this strength of conviction based on this God-given vision
        leads us into mission, proclaiming God’s truth and giving him
praise
        through word and deed.
Yet I think the thing most lacking from the church is vision,
    and by “church” I mean the broader church,
    the Lutheran church, yes, but also the broader Christian church in
America.
 
What I think is most lacking from the church is a God-given vision.
    Anchored in Scripture and tradition, where is God leading us this
day?
        What is God calling us to do?
        To whom is God sending us?
        Who or where is our Macedonia?
And without a vision … the people, and their mission, perish.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are visionaries in the church.
Over the weekend several members of Resurrection gathered
    with hundreds of other Lutherans from 80 DC-area Lutheran
congregations
        in our annual synod assembly,
    to worship, pray, and make decisions about the ministry we do
together.
We heard from Pastor Amy Thompson-Sevimli,
    Assistant to the Bishop and my predecessor here at Resurrection,
    who articulated a vision of a church
        that goes into the places where young adults dwell,
    a church that might hold Bible studies in bars
        and wonders about God with newcomers online;
    a church that knows it has something to give to
        and something to receive from,
        the teeming masses of young adults
        – some raised in and committed to the church, many not –
            masses of young adults that flock to this unique city every
day.

Many years ago a group of women here at Resurrection had a vision …
    a vision to support the needy in our neighborhood.
From that vision was born the Clothes Closet,
    a wonderful ministry that, week-in and week-out,
    provides individuals and families with much-needed clothing at no
cost whatsoever,
        allowing them to spend their precious few dollars on food and
shelter,
        rather than on clothing.

And just a year ago our dear brother Fu’uma had a vision,
    a vision of using what little bit of yard God has blessed us with
    to grow vegetables for the benefit of the community.
Last year’s modest harvest has yielded a more ambitious vision
        seen by Fu’uma, Alice, and others,
    a vision to grow fresh vegetables for the Arlington Food Assistance
Center,
    where an ever-increasing number of food-poor Arlingtonians
    can receive groceries to prepare healthy meals at no cost.

Indeed all of these visions,
    and the visions about this place that I know God has given many of
you,
    are reflections of the vision given to John in the book of
Revelation,
        from which we have been reading this Easter season.
For in Revelation we see John’s vision of a New Jerusalem,
    come down out of heaven from God,
    a city where all peoples are drawn by the light of God,
    where the tree of life provides fruit for all its inhabitants,
        and its leaves provide healing for societies and nations broken
by sin.
Buoyed by this vision of a New Creation fashioned in God’s love, power,
and life,
    the early church defied persecution and death to proclaim Christ
    to a world not necessarily interested in listening.
And yet, seeing a vision and strong in conviction, the early church
persevered in mission.
For their faith and witness and holy legacy, we give thanks to God.

Buoyed by this vision of a promised New Jerusalem,
    we too can be bold to dream and to see visions of our own,
    in the tradition of the saints of old and together with the faithful
visionaries of today,
    despite whatever odds and enemies plot against us.
Let us dare to share our own glimpses of God’s future with each other,
    to put out on the table what God has put in our hearts,
    and to trust the promised Holy Spirit to move in and through this
community,
        to teach us everything and remind us of all our Lord has done
for us …
Let us dare to do this,
    because we dare to believe in a God who has promised us so stinkin’
much,
    a God who has already allowed us to see life after death in Christ
Jesus our Lord,
    a God who has already bestowed on us the promise of eternal life,
        and the vision of a New Jerusalem.
We dare to dream, we dare to see visions,
    we dare to be confident in God’s calling to join his mission in the
world …
    because God dared to love us, dared to save us, and dared to give us
his Kingdom.

Amen.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
This entry was posted in Easter, Sermons, Year C. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Daring to See Visions (Easter 6, Year C)

  1. Praying our clothing labels involves looking at clothing labels when we buy items – whether we buy them new at department stores or used as thrift or consignment shops – and then praying for the persons who had a role in creating the item or getting it to the store at which we are buying it. We can also pray our clothing labels every time we get dressed by looking at the label and praying for the persons involved in its creation. We pray for the people who create and distribute the clothing we wear that they may be safe, that they may be recognized as humans who have an inherent dignity because of their creation in the image and likeness of The Creator, that they may be paid a just wage so that they can provide for their families, and that they may feel God’s comfort and love in all areas of their lives.

  2. Puma Outlet says:

    It’s a great beer and worth seeking out. It’s widely available in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, but as for Geneva, you may need to ask one of the stores that carry Lake Placid in Geneva (Wegman’s, Byrne Dairy, Halsey’s, Tops, Fastrack) why they don’t have the new seasonal yet, and they’ll contact Lake Placid’s distributors (Wright-Wisner, I believe, serves the Rochester area). Sometimes it takes a little kick in the pants from customers to get the retailers to order a new seasonal! You could also take a trip to Rochester if you don’t feel like waiting. I made a few phone calls – I’ll let you know what I find out.

  3. Shahid says:

    that, when a pastor says that, ssuoped,guide his flock, makes the statement that each indidual,is his own Lord, rather than Christ as revealed in the Scripture . Is simply beyond comprehension, and in my view defies the Holy Scripture. If ever there was a case of blasphemy, against God, this has to be it! In my View, the ELCA, HAS ABANDONED THE GREAT COMMISSION, AND IS AN UNWORTHY SERVANT TO GOD!

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