Archive for the ‘Ash Wednesday’ Category

The Birth of a Vision

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

The Birth of a Vision![i]

Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego
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On December 17, 1903 at 10:35 in the morning, Orville Wright secured his place in history by becoming the first person to perform a powered and sustained flight from level ground.  For twelve gravity defying seconds he flew 120 feet along the sand dunes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  

Now in the field of aviation, this historic event represents a beginning.  But for Orville and his brother Wilbur Wright, it was the end of a long and tedious journey—it was a journey initiated by a dream that is common to all little boys—the desire to fly.  But what most children abandon and let remain fantasy, Orville and Wilbur insisted on looking at it as a potential reality.  They believed that they could fly!  But more than that, they believed they should fly, and eventually, fly they did!

 

This childhood experience sparked in the boys an insatiable desire to fly.  The only thing they lacked was a means.  So they immediately went to work removing the obstacles that stood between them and their vision to fly.  This evening we will begin a Lenten journey learning what a vision is, where it comes from, how it is initiated, and how it becomes a reality.  While what we learn during this time will have immediate application for following a vision for our church and its ministry within our community, the same concepts can be used to help you develop and follow multiple visions in your personal life.

 

What is a vision?  Well, a vision is a concern that God puts on your heart.  In our Old Testament reading we join a man named Nehemiah who was one of the many Jews who were captivated by the Persian empire when the nation of Judah was defeated.  The capital city of their nation, Jerusalem was also the home of God’s Holy temple.  It was left ransacked and inhabitated by a remnant of Jews and other people who were moved into Judah by the Persians.  One day, while Nehemiah was at work within the Persian king’s palace, a group of men who still lived in Jerusalem met with him and reported, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (vs. 3) Not only these things were true, but Nehemiah also learned that the Temple and its worship practices were not being maintained and that the remaining Jews had all but abandoned their worship of God and they had adopted the religious practices and cultures of the surrounding nations.

 

Now this probably was not new news to Nehemiah or any of the other Jews captive in Persia.  Undoubtedly he had heard this type of report before, but this time something new happened to Nehemiah…he felt an overwhelming concern; in fact he felt this concern so deeply that he began to weep.  Now Nehemiah was not the type of man who wept at the drop of a hat.  He wasn’t weak and he certainly wasn’t emotionally unstable.  But he was burdened, and his burden led him into a prolonged period of prayer and fasting. 

 

Little did he know that these deep feelings were the initial birth pangs of a vision that you and I would be reading about thousands of years later.  The point is, Nehemiah’s vision didn’t begin as a vision.  It began as a concern…a burden; a burden for his nation and for his people.

 

But a vision doesn’t mean we must take immediate action.  As a pastor, I talk to a lot of people with a ton of good ideas.  Many times, I get the sense that God is indeed beginning the process of creating a vision within their hearts.  The problem with almost all of these ideas is, they want to implement them RIGHT NOW!  Once they feel that their idea is from God, they assume that all systems are a go, and they must drop anything in their lives that will hinder that vision.  They want to step out in faith and start right away.  But the story of Nehemiah, along with numerous other Biblical accounts illustrates the truth that a clear vision does not necessarily mean you have a green light to begin to implement your vision; not yet anyhow.  A vision rarely requires immediate action.  It does however, require patience.

 

Why wait?  Why can’t we just plunge right in?  Because developing or discovering a vision for our church and its ministry or even in a particular area of our lives takes time.  Vision development is a process.  Sometimes it can even be a painful process because of the time it requires.  But it is a process that yields a product worth every bit of agony we may encounter along the way.

 

Revving our vision engines at the starting line feels like a waste of time.  After all, there are people to rescue, relationships to save, and even blessings to receive!  What’s the use of waiting?  It’s this sense of wasting time that is the very thing that compels many people to implement a vision far too soon.  The assumption of our culture is that if we aren’t moving on, nothing’s going to happen.  But this is not the case at all, because you see, why we are waiting…

 

God is developing the vision within us.  As God is working within our hearts and the circumstances of our lives, He is also developing His vision within us.  As His vision is developing within us, He is also maturing us in preparation for implementing that vision.  Now please hear this, because the difference between holding onto a vision and allowing it to fade away as fantasy depends on this truth:  If you are following a God given vision, God will ensure that it matures into a reality because He is at work behind the scenes preparing the way for it.

 

But how do we know if a burden we carry is from God or centered in our own self-serving desires?  Well, a God given vision will eventually feel like a moral imperative, because it is!  St. Paul discusses this imperative in our Epistle lesson in the simplest of terms, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20)  Nehemiah knew also that this was the key to God’s favor and intervention for his fellow Jews in Judah and God’s city and temple Jerusalem.  Listen to his confession as he communicates this imperative: “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’  10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name.

 

All God ordained visions will be in line with what God is up to in our community.  What is God up to in our community?  Why the very same thing that He is up to in every community and every nation in the world…salvation for all people and freedom from the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil.  Listen to the Words of our Savior as he was preparing Himself and His disciples for His eminent and violent death upon the cross:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matt. 11:28-30]

 

All God ordained visions for the church; His people, our families, and even our vocation depend entirely upon God working in us and through us to draw all people into a relationship centered in His saving love and grace.  In short, God wants you to work with Him in all that you do so that He can do a work through you, so that others may be drawn to him through the finished work of Jesus Christ!


[i] This is a series based upon the book “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley, published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc., ISB #1-57673-538-9