May 1 2016
Sat week ago 17 members of the congregation responded to the invitation to meet for half a day for what we called a “mission Visioning” Day. To dream dreams, kick around ideas, try and discern a future direction for Sunshine Uniting. We came up with quite a few ideas and we have another meeting on June 4 where personally I think the task will be to give some thought to what ties all these ideas together – the overarching vision of who we are and wish to be as the community of Sunshine Uniting. What I mean is that vision will tell us why we may want to do some of the things with our property. To get specific, we brainstormed some ideas and these are just ideas we are floating at the moment – but remember we have funds of around $500,000 from PSP. So there are ideas about renovating, modernising, extending buildings, getting access to the tea rooms and the op shop, getting a mini bus. Great ideas. Where we need to give more thought is what is the unifying vision that explains why we may want to do these projects. They are not ends in themselves. We could build the Crystal Cathedral here on this site and have done nothing that pleased God or furthered the Kingdom.
So we continue on June 4.
But I mentioned this because of the connection with the word “vision”. The word for “vision” (horama) occurs twelve times in the New Testament, once in Matthew, then eleven times in the book of Acts.
the way we use the word vision it could be seeing things in the spirit, and it could be discerning through prayer and discussion a future direction. The form it takes is up to God but to have a vision means to be led by God – without a vision the people perish. Whatever form this vision takes it is a common way of talking of the leading of God in the New Testament, and especially in the book we are currently reading The Acts of the Apostles which some people have suggested could be more accurately call the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is meant to be saying here is the Spirit at work, here is God stirring, pay attention here, do not miss this thing God is doing. In the passage just before we started reading today there is a fascinating couple of snippets – the Holy Spirit putting the brakes on, preaching the gospel is a good thing, we are meant to be always ready, always active, always involved in this activity.
Map on screen
Well maybe not, not without a vision it seems for Holy Spirit would not let them preach the message in the province of Asia. And then Paul and Silas and Timothy try to enter the province of Bithynia, but no, again that is not the vision, the Spirit of Jesus does not allow it. Doors open, sometimes doors do not open.
That night, was it in a dream?, Paul has a vision of a Macedonian man saying, “Come across to us, help us!”
And when God does send the vision (in whatever form) Paul and his party act. A vision does not come into its own until people act upon it. Story of having vision of setting up drop-in centre at Brunswick and we had a couple of meetings, and set up a task group, and commissioned some research, and did some financial modelling, and did a property and equipment audit. The guy who more than any of us was the one who held the vision finally got a bit jack of all this and declared, “You know, I reckon we could talk about this for the next two year. In all seriousness, what if we just open the door to the space we ere planning on using and see what happens. What have we got to lose, what could be the worst outcome, even if no-one comes in what skin is it off our nose? One person come in that first day, but that drop in centre today, 6 years on, is still open 3 days a week on busy Sydney Rd Brunswick offering hospitality and refuge to the weary, lonely, fearful, the seeker.
Comes a time when the vision is to be acted upon and timidity can no longer be an excuse.
And so the travelers “hung out” in Phillipi a few days, long enough to get the lay of the land and to discover where a mixed group of Jewish and God-fearing women normally met for Sabbath prayers just outside the city walls. Here Paul found warm reception for his message of Jesus Christ, a message he did not “preach” or “argue” but rather “chatted about” with them. The result: a leader of the group, Lydia, was baptized with her household and invited Paul to stay for a time to help her host the fledgling Christian community that met in her home.
Hospitality is practised – one of the key features of any Christian community – we would hope and what I expect will in some form be part of our vision. Hopefully that extends further than just provided budget friendly space for others to meet in – important as that is – but to build relationships with these communities – mostly new arrivals in Australia.
This story something of a model for mission. It is something of what we are hearing about in the Regeneration strategy our Presbytery is on about. The community listens for the Spirit’s call to a place and go there. They trust that God’s kingdom is already bearing fruit in that place. They look for signs of where that may be happening. They join the effort, whatever it may be, and in the process talk about what brought them there — the call of God to bear witness to God’s kingdom as disciples of Jesus Christ. And they let the Spirit establish who will provide leadership and when.
The mission is the Spirit’s first. Ours is to follow where the Spirit calls and leads.