To Amicus, my Sunday school friends— more about the vision.
A couple of years ago, I wrote this. I still very much mean all of it— that God is calling us to be faithful to the vision, the WHOLE vision, and NOTHING BUT the vision. That what God cares about is the health of our souls and the character of our witness, which are the same thing. That every disciple, no matter their age and stage, needs right teaching, deep relationships, and lives of mission; or to engage their head, heart, and hands in discipleship; or to Believe, Belong, Become.
This is our essential rhythm. And it has worked well enough for us.
But to stay faithful to this God-given vision, we must keep casting it, keep reiterating it, keep clarifying it, keep inspiring it. That’s what this blog is about.
First— two things the vision is NOT:
- The vision is NOT just mine— A few years ago, our congregation went through a process of discerning a vision statement. Every person was invited to participate in that process. Believe, Belong, Become is what surfaced as the shared vision of our community. I haven’t created the vision; I’ve only attempted to inspire us to live it out.
- The vision is NOT entirely fleshed out— It is the skeleton, the bones, the basic structure. Where we start matters, but we have to start somewhere. How we flesh out the vision, apply it and live it, is very much open to our continued inspiration and ideas. There is still every place for innovation and collaboration. Living the vision unfolds each day as we follow Jesus and discern the Holy Spirit.Additionally, we’ve settled on the words Believe, Belong, Become. But this is just one of many ways we could describe God’s call for the disciple and the Church. You all know how much I think words matter. But all words are going to fall short of comprehensively and definitively describing God’s work. At some point, the few words we settle on are secondary to our complete understanding of the Gospel. And at some point, the Church has to just settle on words adequate enough so that we can stop talking about it, and get on with living it.
Next— two things the vision IS:
- The vision IS something we do together and something we do on our own. Faithful communities are made up of faithful individuals. We need personal lives of devotion to ground us in our communal life.
- So far, we’ve believed together by discipling our heads through the right teaching of our curriculums, and we’ve belonged together by discipling our hearts through shared meals and experiences. But that become part, that part about discipling our hands through missional living, is about redemption.
Told through the Scriptures, we know that redemption is the story of God’s action in human history, which is still unfolding through us. In The Epic of Eden, Old Testament guru, Dr. Sandra Richter, says that “redemption” is a biblical word used so often by the Church that it has become gibberish. It is a word the Old Testament writers took right out of their culture (which was built around the family and on a patriarch who bore sole responsibility for all family members) to describe God’s relationship with His people. So she looks to three biblical stories to help us grasp the concept, and therefore understand our mission as the Church:
- Ruth and Boaz— Redemption is the act of a patriarch who puts his own resources on the line to provide for a family member driven to the margins of society by poverty.
- Lot and Abraham— Redemption is the act of a patriarch who risks everything to protect a family member who had been seized by an enemy against whom he had no defense.
- Gomer and Hosea— Redemption is the act of a patriarch willing to absolve the pain and penalty of a family member’s poor choices in order to restore them to a place of security.
The New Testament writers pick up on this metaphor. Redemption is the act of a patriarch (Father God) willing to send the most cherished member of the household (Christ, the Son) to provide for, protect, and absolve the poor choices of every lost member of the human family.
So, finally— As we partner with God in the redemption of the world to become the persons and Church God intends, our task is to discern together the ones in our midst (individuals, groups, systems) in need of provision, protection, and help from poor choices. Who are the “orphan, widow, stranger;” the “least, the last, and the lost;” the “hungry, thirsty, naked, and imprisoned” today, and how do we best partner with God in their redemption?
I invite any who are willing to commit yourselves to prayer for the redemption of the world and for our part of it. And together, let’s keep researching, thinking, dreaming. Together, let’s keep discussing and discerning. Together, let’s keep living the vision. May our own lives and our life together be ones of faithfulness. Oh the redemption God could do with our faithfulness! The people we could become. The world that could be…
See you Sunday,