Sermon / 1 May St Edward’s Church / Vision 2: What is vision and how do we hear from God?
Readings: John 14:15-21 // Exodus 3:7-17 & 4:1-14
A few weeks ago we booked a week away for the summer. I’ll be honest it was a stressful process, we had factors to consider, like where can we take the dog, what will the kids find interesting and not boring. But possibly the biggest issue was that we didn’t know where we wanted to go. We couldn’t narrow down our search because we were looking at Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, Pembrokeshire, the Lake District. We were on AirBnB, cottages direct, dog friendly holidays.com and more…
Honestly it was ridiculous, because we had no direction, no vision of where we wanted to go. There were so many places we could have chosen, so many lovely places where we could have had a great time but without the goal, if you like, we were all over the place.
Finally we decided, narrowed it down and found somewhere before we fell out!
And once we knew where and had booked, now we can plan, decide on how we are going to get there, and exactly what we will do when we are there.
Vision is about our goals for the future – in this case where we wanted to go on hols – and how we are going to realise them. This morning we are continuing to think about vision and specifically today: what is vision and, how do we hear from God on God’s vision?
Without vision we tend do one of 2 things: we either stagnate – we give up on booking our holiday because it was all too much so we just stay here and don’t have a hol – nothing wrong with that of course but we’d have been missing out on a chance to relax, have fun, see something new.
Or we get so distracted by different ideas we just go round in circles – a bit like getting in the car and saying ok where shall we go – let’s drive this way, oh no, actually this looks good, oh but what about that place I heard over there…
No direction or purpose.
BUT with a vision, we know where we are heading and can make plans to get there.
God had a vision from the beginning of time for relationship with people, with creation. It wasn’t always smooth and we can talk for hours about why that is theologically but God still knew what the end goal was: I will be their God and they will be my people.
God worked out this vision in various ways, used people like Moses we heard about. Spoke through the prophets, sent Jesus the son. Jesus, as God, knew the vision too and he knew the how, the how it would affect him. He knew what was going to happen to him from the very start. And that gave him purpose, drive, courage perhaps, strength to do what was needed of him.
And Jesus passed some of that on to the disciples. In John 14 we read him telling them what will happen next – the whole of John 14 is about him telling them about the future.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
I love Moses, who we also heard about in our readings, I just love hearing about him and the way he goes from someone who seems to be directionless, doesn’t really know who he is, to meeting God and still being afraid and ‘I don’t want to God’; to someone who later says ‘ok God show me your glory’, bring it on!
His journey is remarkable.
Here in our Exodus passage we see God appearing to him at the burning bush. God calls him to be part of the vision to free people from slavery. God says, I have come to rescue them and bring them to this amazing place and I am sending you to talk to Pharoah about it all.
Understandably Moses is a bit concerned about this, but as God gives him a bit more info about how this vision is going to come about, gives him some key tools for the way, and he seems to catch hold of it. He raises some issues but that’s a good way to test a vision! But he gets there in the end and he sets out on this vision path.
And this is exactly what we need to do here at St Edward’s. We need to hear from the Lord for our vision for the future, we need to know where we are heading, put in place the route, the waymarkers to get us there, and then set out, led by the Spirit as given to us by Jesus – as we heard in John 14:16.
I don’t want us to stagnate, to just stay still because that way lies decline and missing out. Equally I don’t want us to get confused and distracted and go round in circles with a million ideas before breakfast.
So, we need to hear from God.
How do we hear from God? How do you hear from God?
Well, we all hear from or sense God in different ways – it’s another example of the beauty of difference as we have been created by God. But here’s a few examples to get you thinking .
We’ve been talking about being a church of Scripture, Spirit and Sacrament that is shared so :
Scripture – how might we hear from God though the word? I don’t know about you but there have been times when I have opened the bible at random and a verse has stood out that is so pertinent to my situation. Sometimes it’s as simple as that and maybe God saves that for when it’s hard to catch our attention so it needs to be obvious!
But more usually, how do we read the bible? Do we do so with our ears open? Do we explore what we are reading? I would suggest every time you read your bible start by praying – doesn’t have to be lengthy, I just ask God to reveal the Lord to me as I read or to show me what I need to see. Then as I read I note down anything that has stood out, or I might read a commentary alongside – Tom wright is great for this – clear and simple bible commentary.
And it might be that something stands out or strikes you. It may be related to something you are facing but it might be something that deepens your faith, helps you to grow in your relationship with the Lord.
Jesus says a number of times in scripture, ‘have ears to hear, in fact it’s one of his most used phrases, and a phrase also used by Moses and later Ezekiel.
We need to actively and intentionally listen in order to hear. God let our ears be open to you today.
And you can take this seeking of God through scripture further – try Lectio Divina, the ancient art of reflecting on God’s word by reading a passage, then reflecting, then reading it again… try the Lectio365 app.
And if Scripture is our example, how many people in the bible heard from God in different ways? for example: the Prophets, Joseph had his prophetic dreams, Moses as we heard earlier, Isaac, Samuel, Paul had his amazing experience on the Damascus Rd, Mary heard from God via an angel, Joseph too, and later they were warned in a dream, and more!
Spirit – We need to be led by the Spirit so what does that mean? Jesus said to the disciples in John 14 as we heard that the Spirit would be sent to be with us, to be an advocate, to be with us forever, a spirit that reveals truth. Gods truth.
The Spirit goes across all these areas but How about in prayer?
Prayer is so much more than words we share, it can be a conversation with God, a time of hearing from the Lord. How often do we pray and go – asking all sorts of God and not waiting for an answer? Like a prayer shopping list.
Why not take some space in your prayer time, just be. Embrace the quiet and allow the spirit to guide your thoughts, perhaps something will come into your mind that you don’t know where it has come from – perhaps there might be a prompt there.
Sometimes we might dismiss this as our own thoughts and maybe sometimes it is, but if we are made in God’s image, children of God, then why would God not use our own thoughts to guide us?
Perhaps you get a sense you should pray for someone – drop them a text telling them you just felt to pray for them and hope all ok. I’ve lost count of the number of times God has used that for me.
So allow space in your prayer life to sense what God is saying.
More than that sometimes the Spirit works to give us words, or pictures in our minds – something that might be pertinent to a situation.
A while back I was praying for a church and I felt God give me a picture, just a picture in my mind and it was of 3 pillars gradually crumbling and in different states of repair. I mean not exactly encouraging right?!
But the next few years after that were a difficult season and I kept coming back to that picture sensing that God had given it to me to say, you see I knew this was going to happen and I showed you, and it was a huge comfort not to get dragged down into thinking negatively. And I shared that picture with someone and they had an interpretation that said these pillars needed to come down in order for rebuilding to happen. Which encouraged me further. It was all part of God’s plan.
If you ever get a picture like that ask the Spirit to guide you into what it means. Or share – we’ve been talking about sharing as part of church – share with someone you trust, perhaps God has given them the meaning?
And more sometimes the Spirit reveals things to people in visons or in dreams – again ask for the meaning, or share with someone who might help you understand it.
I’d love you to be seeking these kinds of pictures or words – these prophetic signs – for our church as we seek God’s vision.
Sacrament – If we believe that God works through the sacraments then perhaps God will reveal something to us through them?
How many of you have had powerful moments of encounter with God through the Eucharist for example, in receiving communion? I think I’ve lost count of how many times over the years I have met with Jesus so powerfully in taking the bread and wine. So as we come to communion each time let us be open to God being present and revealing Godself to us.
So there’s just a few ways that we might hear from God, I am sure you have others too. Maybe you can share over coffee with others a time you have heard from God.
In our passages today we saw different people with a vision from God. Moses spoken to by God, given a purpose and the tools he needed and from that point on no matter what came his way – and there was stuff! He stuck to that calling and that vision.
For the disciples, Jesus told them what was going to happen but here and in other verses we can see him giving them this picture of the future, of eternity and of the now – their role to share who Jesus is being given the tools – the Spirit – to do so. And they did it, shared the word, grew the church and I said last week we simply are continuing in their work.
So let’s take their examples and others and seek God for a vision for Christs’ church here at St Edward’s.