Saturday, June 9, 2007
THE HEAVENLY VISION...
... for the people of earth
Stop dwelling on past events
and brooding over days gone by.
I am about to do something new;
this moment it will unfold.
Can you not perceive it?
Even through the wilderness I shall make a way,
and paths in the barren desert.
The wild beast will do me honour,
the wolf and the desert-owl,
for I shall provide water in the wilderness
and rivers in the barren desert,
where my chosen people may drink,
this people I have formed for myself,
and they will proclaim my praises.
Isaiah 43: 18-21, REB
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, 'Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shah be very great.' But Abram said, 'O Lord God, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless... ?' [The Lord] brought him outside and said, 'Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.
God spoke to Israel in visions of the night. '... do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will there make of you a great nation.'
The Lord said, '...while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.' Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
In those days there was no frequent vision. Where there is no vision the people perish. Her prophets obtain no vision from the Lord.
In accordance with all... this vision, Nathan spoke to David. Of old thou didst speak in a vision to thy faithful one.
The vision of Obadiah. The vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz. A stern vision is told to me.
They seek a vision from the prophet... they shall eat their bread with fearfulness, and drink water in dismay... on account of the violence of all those who dwell in [the land]. The days are at hand, and the fulfilment of every vision.
Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 'Your dream and the visions of your head... are these: To you, O King, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be hereafter.' 'I saw in the visions of my head... a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.' 'I saw in the night vision... there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.'
I spoke to the prophets, it was I who multiplied visions.
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it.
They perceived that [Zechariah] had seen a vision in the temple.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, 'Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.'
They came back saying they had even seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.
The Lord said to him in a vision, 'Ananias'... Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean... A vision appeared to Paul in the night: 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' The Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak... for I have many people in this city...' 'King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.'
(Genesis 15: 1-2, 5-6; 46: 2-3; Exodus 33: 22; 34: 29; I Samuel 3: 1 -- all RSV; Proverbs 29: 18, AV; Lamentations 2: 9; I Chronicles 17: 15; Psalm 89: 19; Obadiah 1: 1; Nahum 1: 1; Isaiah 1: 1; 21: 2; Ezekiel 7: 26; 12: 19-23b; Daniel 1: 17b; 2: 28b-29; 4: 13; 7: 13; Hosea 12: 10; Joel 2: 28; Habakkuk 2: 2; Luke 1: 22; Matthew 17: 9; Luke 24: 23; Acts 9: 10; 10: 17; 16: 9; 18: 9-10; 26:19 -- all RSV)
We have always wanted to know the future. From the gypsy with her crystal, or tarot cards, or reading the lines in your palm, or the astrologer with his stars, we long to know what will happen to the world in general, and to our world in particular. And visions undoubtedly do sometimes relate to the future, as the Bible makes clear. Daniel's explanation of Nebuchadnezzar's vision of a mighty statue with its head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet a mixture of iron and clay meant it would take centuries before its meaning was outworked. John's vision on the isle of Patmos is taking millennia to reach its fulfilment.
But the scriptures also describe some visions that are for the here and now. Israel needs to know whether it is right to take the promised people into Egypt, away from the promised land. David is told that his idea of a temple is magnificent, but not for him to build. Paul is directed to go to Macedonia, or to stay in Corinth. Clearly not every decision we take is communicated through a vision, but some major turning points in the history of Israel and the church certainly have been.
Whilst other people's visions are urgent and important, they make us realise that we need a vision, too -- something that we will follow, give our lives to undertaking, work for with all our heart. Peter Block suggests a vision should be both strategic and lofty. But your vision will be precisely that -- your vision. The scriptures show only Joseph and Pharaoh, and Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar had the same dreams or visions -- and both for the purpose of explanation. Your vision will be unique to you, just as God has made you unique, brought you specially to himself, and commissioned you to labour in his vineyard. Jesus says to his disciples, 'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you' (John 15: 16).
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my Light.
High King of heaven, after victory won,
May I reach heav'n's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
Ancient Irish Hymn
This is no war of domination or imperial aggrandisement or material gain; no war to shut any country out of the sunlight and means of progress. It is a war, viewed in its inherent quality to establish, on impregnable rocks, the rights of the individual, and it is a war to establish and revive the stature of man.
Winston Churchill, on the day Britain declared war in 1939
The real problem is in defining reality. In my mind, reality is the market, the numbers, the comparisons with others. The first two or three months, I had many, many meetings - probably fifteen a day -- where we discussed facts. Not opinions, just facts. This was a company used to discussing ideas and opinions. My contribution was to transform this thinking to our way of behaving, from concepts to numbers. I am a great believer in the power of numbers. Of course you have to understand and interpret them. They are a good starting point for any plan, any action.
If you are planning for one year, plant rice. If you are planning for ten years, plant trees. If you are planning for 100 years, plant people.
The vision was to establish a workshop on the estate providing employment, help and outreach to the local community. It became a reality after much prayer and planning by the committee when a grant was given, premises became available in the school on the estate, and a workshop manager was appointed. By early February, the workshop began to function in the way that had been foreseen three years earlier, much to the excitement and encouragement of those who had worked for it.
Information Sheet, The Carpenters' Shop
This very remarkable man
Commends a most remarkable plan.
You can do what you want
If you don't think you can't,
So don't think you can't; think you can.
Let your vision be your commission.
Go ahead and do it; you can always apologise later.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
The first ingredient in [renewal] is a powerful vision -- a whole new sense of where a company [church, society or organisation] is going and how to get there. It is important to understand trends... but it is not enough. You must also discover the special way that your company fits into the business environment. The company's vision becomes a catalytic force, an organising principle for everything that the people in the corporation do.
John Naisbitt, Re-inventing the Corporation
One minister pointed out that there were no more jobs left for his people. Apparently some churches only need a third of the membership to keep the church ticking over. We are back again to the vision of the leadership. What are we here for? Visions that stop at the church door offer little challenge. Perhaps we should stop berating the 'less committed' and begin to ask the more committed what they are committed to.
Peter Neilson, 'Life and Work'
The creation of humankind crowns the work [of God in Genesis 1 and 2], but the sabbath is its supreme goal. Now, what is the meaning of the sabbath that was given to Israel? It relativises the works of humankind, the contents of the six working days. It protects us from total absorption by the task of subduing the earth. It anticipates the distortion which makes work the sum and purpose of human life. And it informs us that we will not fulfil our humanity in our relation to the world which we are transforming [unless] we raise Our eyes above, in the blessed holy hour of communion with the Creator. With this meaning it would be no exaggeration to state that the sabbath sums up the difference between the biblical and the Marxist visions. The essence of humankind is not work!
Henri Blocher, In the Beginning
Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking Glass tackles the problem of attempting the impossible. The White Queen is speaking to Alice.
'I can't believe that,' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said, in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath and shut your eyes.'
Alice laughed: 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'
Most of us follow Alice- we don't believe in the impossible. The disciples felt that it was impossible for Jesus to have risen from the dead on the third day. No-one had ever done that before. Who would believe in blue snow? But that's what the scientists found on Jupiter's moon Io as Voyager, the spacecraft, took coloured photographs as it swept past -- a kind of volcanic precipitate.
The seven last words of the church are said to be. 'We have always done it this way.' Change? Impossible! But we follow an impossible God who can give us a vision to do the impossible.
Peter Brierley, Vision Building
I am what I am becoming.
You see things as they are and ask 'Why?' But I dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not?'
George Bernard Shaw
Vision is imaginative insight, statesmanlike foresight, sagacity in planning.
Concise Oxford Dictionary
Vision is not a fragile thing. It is the heart of corporate strategy and purpose; an integrating force; it helps overcome barriers to change; it channels energies by enabling everyone to point in the same direction.
The Alpine climber who is trying to reach a summit can, on the upward path, scarcely see his goal except at certain fortunate moments. What he does see is the strong path that must be trodden, the rocks and precipices to be avoided, the unbending slopes that become even steeper. He feels the growing weakness, the solitude and the burden. And yet, the inspiration of the climber is the sight of the goal. Because of it, all the hardships of the journey count for naught.
Samuel Zwemer, Call to Prayer
Lead me, Heavenly Father, into your creative purpose for my gifts, skills and knowledge of your ways, limited though they are. Give direction not just for today but for the next five years, or ten years, or my lifetime. Then I will see more clearly what I must do more of this week in order to begin to fulfil your long-term desires for me.
Oh, Lord Jesus, help me to be willing to go where I am led. Forgive my fears at being given a task that seems too long. Forgive my reluctance to move from my security. Forgive my complacency with the needs of a sinful world all round me. Help me to be conscious of your presence, grateful for your power, guided by your peace.
Holy Spirit, thank you for making me what I have been becoming. Take me as I am, and continue to break me and mould me into becoming what you would have me to be. I do not ask for my sake, but for the glory of him who died for me, chose me and appointed me, that my life might bear fruit, even Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
whose chosen servant Abraham
faithfully obeyed your call
and rejoiced in your promise
that, in him, all the families of the earth should be blessed;
give us a faith like his,
that, in us, your promises may be fulfilled;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Almighty and everlasting God,
increase this gift of faith;
that, forsaking what lies behind
and reaching out to that which is before,
we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Alternative Service Book
May God give us light to guide us, courage to support us and love to unite us, now and evermore. Amen.
Rivers in the Desert ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 109-116