Without vision, the people perish

Easter is a hinge. It signifies very definitely the end of one thing, one phase, even one world, and the beginning of something entirely new. It is the pivot on which the life of the universe turns.

Easter is laden with new possibilities. It is the feast of potential, and for that reason there is an element of uncertainty. The resurrection is so revolutionary that the past has ceased to be a good guide for the future.

As a congregation, a Circuit, a Connexion, we also find ourselves at a pivotal point – the realisation that certain familiar ways of doing things are coming to an end, and the (uncertain) hope of new beginnings.

In the midst of all this change and uncertainty, we need a vision, a vision that is only possible because of Easter. The Psalmist says that without vision, the people perish! But visions are not answers to our problems. They give us glimpses of God’s future, and inspire and encourage us to keep going, even when the way is unclear.

The vision for the church I offer here is not new. In fact, it was written about 1700 years ago in an attempt to unify Christians: ‘I believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.’ I also offer a visual aid to reflect upon during the sermon: Andrei Rublev’s Icon depicting the visitation at Mamre.

ONE

For any of us, dividing our lives into the personal and the public, the sacred and secular, work and life, is not easy. As you know, I work from home, or rather from the Manse. It is never easy to make firm lines between work and rest. When I listen to the problems of a friend, am I being me or being a minister?

A proper vision for the Church can only be articulated when we try to hold all things together. So if we struggle to separate out the sacred and the secula in our personal lives, or make distinctions between 'church' and 'world', that is probably what was intended.

So part of the vision of the Church is a community that offers people the chance of wholeness, of trying to hold together the various parts of their increasingly fragmented lives and then making some sense of it in the light of the gospel. And that means bringing the WHOLE of life into church, not a sanitized version of it. I don’t want to be part of a church (and yet I fear I am!) that judges and pre-judges people, that has decided in advance the criteria for membership and looks down its nose at those who don’t meet them. I want to be part of a church that stops avoiding the difficult issues, for fear they might upset people. How can we possibly find wholeness if we hide, or force others to hide, parts of their lives in church? The journey to wholeness, to Oneness, is a painful one because we have to put everything on the table, including our fears and our prejudices.