May 13, 2007 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 14:23–14:29
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Today is Mother's Day, and so I want to share with you a Mother's Day story - a vision for Mother's Day, if you will - what life would be like without mothers. A man came home from work one afternoon to find total mayhem in his house. His three young children were outside, still in their pajamas and covered with mud, empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife's car was open, as was the front door to the house. Needless to say, the man was becoming alarmed. He proceeded into the house, where he found an even bigger mess. Lamps were knocked over, cushions off all the furniture, throw rugs wadded up against the wall. In the family room the TV was blaring away with a cartoon channel, strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes were piled up in the sink, food was all over the table and counter, and the refrigerator door was standing wide open. Dog food was scattered all over the floor, and a pile of sand was by the back door. The man quickly headed upstairs, stepping over more toys and clothes, looking for his wife. He was thinking something serious must have happened to her. He found her lounging in the bedroom, curled up in bed in her PJs, reading a book. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked up at her bewildered, and asked, "What happened here today?" She smiled again and answered, "You know how you come home from work everyday ask me what in the world did I do today?" "Yes," he replied. "Well," she answered, "today I didn't do it." Happy Mother's Day!
Visions are before us today in the Scripture lessons, so that begs the question: how is your vision? The truth is that many, if not most, of us need help with our vision through eye glasses, contact lenses, and eye surgery like cataract or lasik surgery. Bottom line: we need help to see, and if that's true with our eyes, how much more with our eyes of faith! We need a little help to see, to grasp and understand what God is revealing to us. Let's put on our eye glasses of faith to see what the Spirit is saying to us today.
In today's first lesson (Acts 16:9-15), Paul the apostle receives a vision that would plant the first Christian mission on European soil. Until now, Paul's efforts had taken him along the eastern Mediterranean, into what was then called Asia Minor, now modern-day Turkey. There on the northwestern coast of Asia Minor that borders the Aegean Sea, Paul is given a vision: "... there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:9). This is pivotal for the spread of the Gospel because now that Gospel message reaches out onto the European continent, and eventually to the heart of the empire itself: the city of Rome. It is precisely because of this vision given to Paul that many of us are here today; that Gospel message planted on European soil bore fruit that reached out to our ancestors, many of whom emigrated here from Europe. We are the products of Paul's missionary efforts! Now, it's our turn to be the missionaries in a new missionary age. Who's going to do it if we don't? Who's going to tell them if we don't?
In today's second lesson (Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5), John describes the vision given to him: "And in the spirit he [one of the angels] carried me away to a great high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10). This is the end product of Paul's missionary efforts - and many others like Paul, who have pointed others to Christ - that people from all nations, tribes, and languages are gathered before the throne of God and the Lamb, and will worship him and see him face to face. For now, we now walk by faith, but the day is coming when we will see the Lord face to face, as Paul writes: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is this vision of what is yet to be that sustains us day by day on our journey of faith.
Whether we wear glasses or not, the truth is that our vision - our God vision - is pretty poor; myopic, in fact. We see what we want to see, and what we want to see is usually ourselves and our own narrow-minded interests. We stumble and fall because our vision is so short-sighted. This is why Christ Jesus came into the world, to correct our faulty vision; to give us new eyes to see not just ourselves but one another, the world, and the Creator who made that world. Think of it this way: Christ Jesus was the world's first organ donor, who gave his heart of love as payment for our heart of stone. He closed his eyes in death so that he might open our eyes to a new vision for life. In today's Gospel lesson (John 14:23-29), Jesus describes his vision for us, and it includes at least 4 distinct parts, all of which are his gifts to us, received in faith as a response to all that he has done for us. First, Jesus envisions for us loving obedience: "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them" (John 14:23). Obedience to Jesus is no longer a chore, a burden, a heavy weight that ties us down. It is joy! (see 1 John 4-5). It is joy because obedience to the Lord Jesus is life and salvation. Second, Jesus envisions for us being taught by the Spirit: "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you" (John 14:26). That promised Holy Spirit is not a future hope, but a present reality, given to us in our Baptism. Third, Jesus envisions for us peace: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives" (John 14:27). Isn't that what so many of truly desire - peace? We seek it in so many places where it will never be found, and it is Jesus' gift to all who put their trust in him. Receive his gift of peace, and be blessed with that peace which passes all human understanding, which will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7). Fourth, Jesus envisions for us no fear: "Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (John 14:27). We waste so much energy in being fearful and afraid - sleepless nights, anxious thoughts, joyless living. Why do we do this to ourselves? If the Lord Jesus loves us so much that he willingly gave his life for us upon the cross, will he not be with us during those trying times? Here is Jesus' vision for us: loving obedience, being taught by the Spirit, peace, and no fear. Can we see ourselves in this vision?
Last month, our congregation approved a new vision that will move us into the next fifty years. Grasping the vision God has for our life in Christ is no small task! Those four key words - gather, disciple, manage, and invite - are huge, and will re-shape how we "do" church. As we have learned, part of God's vision for our life here at St. John's involves the property next door, which we will acquire on November 1. This is what Building God's Vision for Tomorrow is all about, something I ask you to support prayerfully and financially. May God open our eyes to the abundant life in Christ he would have for us, granting to us this perfect vision. Amen.