Stewardship Sermon: Visions, Dreams, Hopes.

Sermon Title: Stewardship Sermon: Visions, Dreams, Hopes.
Date: 13 Nov 2016
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
Church Date: 26th Sunday After Pentecost
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25, Psalm: A Song of Isaiah, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

“I have a dream!” this was the opening speech of Martin Luther King who had a vision of a world where we would be walking together as one. This hasn’t come to fruition as he had envisaged, but in many ways, more and more people are walking together for the good of humankind. Sadly we mainly hear of racial intolerance, which of course is real, but there is much happening for tolerance and peace between all peoples no matter their age, gender or race.

We do hope that all governments, including the newly elected president and Congress of the US and our own government, always seek the welfare of all people. We need to keep them in our prayers for such a huge responsibility.

We all have dreams of what we would like to see happen in our world, and also dreams we have for ourselves and for our loved ones.

The prophets of old have dreamed dreams and seen visions. The prophets and visionaries in the New Testament and since then, have dreamed dreams and seen visions of a world which speaks from the heart of God who wants all people to live in harmony with each other and with creation.

They also speak of the God who wants us to remember the commandments to love God, love neighbour and love self.

Magdalen Smith, a priest in the Diocese of Chester, wrote: “The God we believe in generates hope within us to live and believe a better and more beautiful world into being. As believers and pray-ers we often work counter culturally against a mindset of cynicism that tells us that there is no point attempting to live these out because ultimately nothing changes.”[i]

Dream dreams and see visions and be people of hope.

We have faced and are facing challenging times in the changing culture of Australia. So many in the boomers generation, don’t want to be committed to any institution, church included. We can beat ourselves up and wonder what we have done wrong, and sometimes take it out on others, or we can say, ok, life is different, the church is different and going to be different, what do I think it will look like in the future if we listen – if we listen to our own hearts and listen to the generations of people who are spiritual beings, like you and me, searching and sometimes lost, like you and me, for them to come and see why we are people of faith.

What is our vision or dreams for ourselves, for our families, for our church community, for our world?

I read of a woman who had a dream of a transparent church, where there appeared to be no walls, where it was possible to see inside and those inside to see out.  She spoke of a sense of her own calling as being in a place where she herself could act as a bridge, where she might ‘sit between two worlds’, enabling there to be a continuous and flowing two-way communication, a breaking down of barriers between those on the inside and those outside. This dream connected with her work pastoring an Iranian Christian community.

Is this a dream you can relate to?  I certainly can.

Mary Grey, in her book The Outrageous Pursuit of Hope, asks whether there is a specific dream for particular eras in the history of the world. She likens the experience of the exilic people of Israel with the loss of genuine homeland for many refugee peoples in the world who have had their livelihood and dreams obliterated, primarily by war.  But she also talks about the loss of hope in a fin de siecle [end of the century] time in the West where individualism, competitiveness and a loss of corporate spirituality have persuasively created a culture of sapping apathy and sometimes despair that questions whether life holds any meaning at all.  Her question is this:”How can Christians sing the Lord’s song in a culture where, like the Jews in Babylon, people of faith are often easily assimilated into secular culture- at times, we do not look so distinctively different from the atheist next door. Her answer lies in a subversive reading of the prophetic texts; she suggests that the radical Christian vision is to perpetuate hope when our individual or collective dreams are in danger of dying. She links this specifically with the power faith holds, and encourages the followers of Christ to be people who retain the energy and exuberance generated by a hopeful approach to life, which states passionately and firmly the belief that with God’s power the world can be changed and infused with a new and more meaningful understanding of how to live.”[ii]

It is difficult though, when dreams and hopes do die.  An example is when Jonathan and I had to close two country churches of our seven centre parish, due to the diocese decreasing a number of small churches throughout the diocese. The hopes and dreams of those small communities died.  And yet there are other examples of others who have persevered with their dream, their vision and their hope and maybe St Matthew’s Ashburton is a case in point.

But sometimes when something dies, something new is born.

Prayer is not a waste of time. Dreaming is not a waste of time. Visioning is not a waste of time.

It may not always turn out the way one expected, and it may not happen in your lifetime, but as we grow and change inwardly which is what prayer does, our dream may take on a different look.

We are all called to be pray-ers, dreamers and visionaries.

I encourage each of you, to keep enduring in the faith amidst the noises and distractions on the outside.  When you were baptised these words were said “live as a disciple of Christ: fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith.”

It’s about praying, persevering and being people of hope.

I want to know how to support each of you in your Christian faith and journey.

I want to know how to support our young people in their faith journey.

I want to know how to support those in our local community.

And I want to know how to support those in our wide world community.

I want to know so that our dreams, visions and hopes are the same.

We can’t do everything. We can’t heal everyone or transform everything.

But we can do some things and do them well, here and now. We are ordinary people with hopes to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.

We can do this when we dream together and when we have a common vision.

A St Paul’s, we are a caring community of Christ, worshipping God, engaging the community and building connections between people of all ages and cultures.  This is our Vision. It’s putting flesh on it more and more so that we can fully own it and celebrate the mission and ministry that we do here together.

We will sing as our offertory hymn ‘We all are one in mission’ and I would like to read the words to you.

The hymn “We all are one in mission”.

We all are one in mission, we all are one in call,

our varied gifts united by Christ, the Lord of all.

A single, great commission compels us from above

to plan and work together that all may know Christ’s love.

We all are called for service to witness in God’s name.

Our ministries are different, our purpose is the same:

to touch the lives of others by God’s surprising grace,

so people of all nations may feel God’s warm embrace.

We all behold one vision, a stark reality;

the steward of salvation was nailed upon a tree.

Yet resurrected Justice gives rise that we may share

free reconciliation and hope amid despair.

Now let us be united and let our song be heard.

Now let us be a vessel for God’s redeeming Word.

We all are one in mission, we all are one in call,

our varied gifts united by Christ, the Lord of all.

 

The Lord be with you.

[i] Fragile Mystics by Magdalen Smith page140

[ii] Fragile Mystics by Magdalen Smith page 144