vision

The Dawn of Vision and The Role of Pastor

Photo by  Karl Magnuson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

There is a story about the nature of spiritual disciplines that goes something like this:

A student asked the teacher, “What effect do the spiritual disciplines have on gaining salvation?” The teacher said, “As much effect as you have on causing the sun to rise.” To which the student asked, “Then why practice the disciplines at all?” Looking to the east the teacher said, “So that we are awake to witness the sunrise.”

Too often we church leaders think that it is our job to “come up with the vision” of the church. And some might say this is true. I offer that it is not the leader that comes up with the vision but it is God’s vision that leaders are trying to articulate. This means the leader must be engaged in spiritual disciplines so as to not miss the sunrise.

The vision for a church is like the sunrise. It is a gift an it comes slowly. It is not the leaders job to cast the vision but to help and show people how to stay awake to the breaking of God’s vision. The pastoral leader is not the one who decides what the vision is, but the one who calls people to look eastward for the coming vision of dawn. The faithful church is less interested in deciding what to do and more interested in where to face.

My Doing Impacts My Vision

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I love the idea of being still, but my own sense of self-worth is wrapped up in "doing". There is a great little story from the desert teachers in the Christian tradition that goes something like this:

So the two went away to see him who had withdrawn into the desert, and they told him their troubles. They asked him to tell them how he himself had fared. He was silent for a while, and then poured water into a vessel and said, ‘Look at the water,’ and it was murky. After a little while he said again, ‘See now, how clear the water has become.’ As they looked into the water they saw their own faces, as in a mirror. Then he said to them, ‘So it is with anyone who lives in a crowd; because of the turbulence, he does not see his sins: but when he has been quiet, above all in solitude, then he recognizes his own faults.’

The irony of course is that in all my "doing" I cloud up the waters and cannot see very well. I then think that since I cannot see very well it must be because I am not working hard enough to see clearly, so I work and stir up the waters even more. 

I love to see clearly. I struggle to be still. 

King Hezekiah and the #UMCGC

Recently I heard a devotional given by Rev. Dr. Tim Bruster (who is up for election for Judicial Council of the UMC). Rev. Bruster shared the story from 2 Kings 20:1-21 and how it relates to the UMC. For those of us who have not memorized the story, here is the key part Dr. Bruster shared:

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’

Dr. Bruster pointed out that Hezekiah was a king who was told that his actions and the way he was leading was going to result in some very bad news for his sons. However, this news did not provoke Hezekiah to repent and change his ways. His response to hearing this word was, "this is a good word that you have spoken." It is good that those closest to him will experience shame and punishment? Why? 

Hezekiah may have thought this was good news because this news was about his sons and not about himself. Perhaps we could read his response, "Oh that sounds bad.... Wait did you say this was going to happen to me? Oh, no? My sons? Whew! That was close. I thought you were going condemn my actions, but you only are saying my boys will be affected. That was close, I really dodged a bullet there."  

It might have been good news for Hezekiah, but his son's may have a different opinion...

Of all the voting delegates of General Conference of the UMC, only 7% of them are "young people." The gifted and talented Abigail Parker Herrera wrote: "Only 7% of the 864 seated delegates will be young people. Less than 30 people under the age of 35 from the Central Conferences and only 33 people under 30 from the United States will be on the floor making decisions. Almost half of these young people are women. A mere 6 of them are clergy."

With these sorts of numbers I wonder if the other 93% of delegates may fall victim to the universal sin of shortsightedness? May it remind us all that our perspective is influenced depending on if we have to live with for 10 or 50 years.

Another difference in self-help and spiritual formation

The self help industry is a huge monster of a thing that is a weird mix of accurate and pseudo versions of different disciplines. One of those disciplines that is in the mixture of self help is the discipline of spirituality. 

I would like to point out Christian spiritual formation is different from many expressions of self help. This is not to say that the self help world is wrong or inaccurate in the many claims made. Rather, it is more of a philosophical difference that I would like to bring to the surface. For instance, the difference Christianity and self help has with cracks and imperfections. Still others have written on how each Christianity and self help understand happiness differently.

Another difference that in Christianity and self help is how each of these philosophies understand vision.

The self help world understands vision like much of the academic world I encountered, which says something like this: Everyone sees the world through a set of lenses. You were born with a set of lenses that you see the world through and as we grew our lenses changed some but we still had these lenses on our eyes that colored the world as we experienced it. Thus the goal of education and self help is to teach us to examine these lenses so that we might see how it is our vision is different from others who see the exact same world.

Now this is not an inaccurate metaphor for how we see the world. However, what makes Christian spirituality different is that we do not think that we have lenses, but in fact that we are blind and cannot see. This is why the spiritual life is one that embraces humility, because we cannot see. Paul said that we see through dark glass, but he only said this after he was literally blinded. It is only when we come to the reality that we cannot see that we then can take the steps to admit that all the lenses we wear are dark at best. 

Yes we have lenses we see the world through and it is important to examine those lenses. However, the first step in Christian formation is to have our eyes opened, then we can clean the lenses.