Sermon for 6 July ’08
If you look on the back wall of the church, you’ll see a congregational vision statement:
- To know God;
- To love and serve him;
- To make him known.
Now, that’s not our vision statement any more. Why not? Don’t we believe that it’s important to know God, to love and serve God and to make God known? Yes, we do. So why isn’t that still our vision statement?
It’s because a few years ago it was thought that it was too brief. It left important things out. It was too constrictive. We needed something a little longer, something that fleshed things out a bit.
So, we arrived at the vision statement we now have:
- To be a vibrant congregation encompassing various ages and cultures, honouring Jesus Christ and living out a passionate spirituality.
- To be known in the community for generously giving ourselves and reflecting God’s grace to all people.
- To grow a community empowered by the Holy Spirit that
- knows, loves and worships Jesus Christ
- helps people connect with God and with one another in a faith that is active
- shares God’s love, justice and hope beyond our walls.
What’s wrong with that? Well, first, let me ask a question: How many can say it by heart? How many of us even knew that was our vision statement? Without a vision, the people perish.
It’s a good statement. But it’s too long. If the old statement was astringent, our current one is circumlocutious, verbose, periphrastic, discursive, waffly, pleonastic, prolix, circuitous, long-winded, verbally diarrhoeic and diffuse. Oh—and did I say it’s too long?
Fuzz Kitto led us in a review of our life and witness earlier this year. One of the recommendations that came from the review was that we work on a strategic action plan with a consultant. We realised we had such a consultant in our midst in John Tainton, and John has been working with a group drawn from the Navigation and Ministry Development Teams to get a timeline in place for the strategic action plan. You’ll hear more about that soon.
This group—consisting of Bob Adams, Carolyn Adams, David Ireland, Kerry Pierce and me—produced a draft vision statement to replace the one we now have. Today, I want to talk about this essential part of a strategic action plan: A vision statement that is neither too long or too short.
It sounds a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, doesn’t it? This vision statement is too short! This vision statement is too long! This vision statement is…well, it’s coming up on the screen now.
To respond as disciples of Jesus by:
- Worshipping, praying and contemplating;
- Being a community united in the Spirit; and
- Sharing God’s love, justice and hope.
Let me say again that this is a draft vision statement. It’s a work in progress. There will be opportunities for you to contribute to the wording of the final form.
Why have a vision statement anyway? I think it’s to keep us on the straight and narrow. It’s to keep our eyes focussed on the goal. It’s to remind us of the basics of being a Christian community. A vision statement is not meant to cover everything.
Let’s look at this draft statement. Our vision is
To respond as disciples of Jesus by…
The vision doesn’t start with us. That’s the first and fundamental thing. The vision doesn’t start with us—it begins with God. God has a mission, a mission to transform the entire creation, and God wants to catch us up in that mission. That’s the source of our vision. We don’t make it up—we respond to God.
We respond to God’s initiative, an initiative of grace, mercy and reconciliation. God sends the Son to be one with us, to live our life and die our death; God sends the Spirit so that we may know God as Father, mother, friend, lover.
How do we respond to God’s grace, mercy and peace? By
- Worshipping, praying and contemplating
We are made to relate to God, the great Source of all life and goodness. Sin has spoiled that, but God has acted to restore us.
Worship is an encounter with God. Public worship is the primary encounter with God, because Christianity is a social faith. It’s not an individual thing. Faith is not something we ‘have’ as individuals. It is personal, but not individual; it is something we share with others and which brings us into communion with the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Prayer is also central; prayer is also encounter with God. Prayer is not talking to God; it’s talking with God. In prayer, we also listen, and that’s where contemplation comes in. Sometimes, we think of prayer as a shopping list that we take to God. That’s not enough!
An old man used to sit for hours in the back seat of his Catholic Church, gazing at the crucifix down the front. One day, the priest said to him, ‘What do you do here every day?’ The old man replied, ‘I just look at him and he looks at me.’ That’s a picture of contemplation; we need it.
The prayer guides we’ve produced are in part an attempt to let prayer be a time of silence as well as activity. If you haven’t picked one up yet, please do so.
We also respond to God’s grace, mercy and reconciling peace by
- Being a community united in the Spirit
We sometimes get the idea that God requires us to be so busy we end up running around like chooks with their heads cut off. You know, like the wisecrack: Jesus is coming, look busy!
This draft vision statement reminds us that we don’t find the true life by being busy. Sometimes, people feel God only wants us so we can be useful. No, God wants us because God is love.
That’s the first reason God wants us. The second reason God wants us is that God loves us. And the third reason that God wants us is because God loves us. There’s no other reason!
We find true life by being a loving community united by the Spirit of God. We are of value here, and for no other reason than we are part of the family.
Finally, our response to God’s grace, mercy and peace is in
- Sharing God’s love, justice and hope
As part of God’s family here, we want to share what we have found with others. As part of God’s family, we want to help those who are part of the family yet haven’t realised it yet. As part of God’s family, we hurt because there are members of the family who haven’t got enough to eat, or who lack adequate health care.
So we reach out to share what we have been given. The great Sri Lankan Christian DT Niles once said that evangelism is one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread. That’s what we do—we have found the great Source of life, and we share it with others. Soon, Paul and Fiona will share with us what they are doing to share with others, in going to Tonga for three months with Uniting International Mission. And of course, the Global Walking team to Indonesia has just left for three weeks there.
Without a vision, the people perish. This draft mission statement aims to provide that vision. I’m sure it can be improved!—so please, as we work on our strategic plan together let’s get it right so we can stay focussed on the mission that God has for us, here and now and into the future.