I suspect we’ve all had times in our lives when something happens and we know that that event is asking something of us. We know something needs to be done in response to what has happened. We want to do something, but we just don’t know what to do.
For the last several months I have really struggled with, maybe even become obsessive about, what I do, what St. Philip’s does, and what Uvalde does following the tragedy of May 24th. I think about it every day. My struggle with those questions has left me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely, stuck, and grouchy.
Any of that sound familiar? When have you felt like that and what brought it about? Maybe it was May 24th or maybe it was some other event or set of circumstances. I think the questions of what we are going to do, what we want to do, or what we should do often occupy much of our time, effort, and energy. They’re not necessarily bad questions but maybe they are not necessarily the first question.
This past Friday night I was speaking with a new friend about my “what to do” questions. He listened as I talked in circles getting nowhere. He listened some more and then he asked me, “What do you want the future to be?” He was asking me about my vision for the future. I think it’s the same question Isaiah is setting before us in today’s Old Testament reading (Isaiah 65:17-25).
No wonder I don’t know what to do. How could I? I have no vision for the future. That’s why I’ve been stuck. “Where there is no vision the people perish,” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).
I am in search of a vision for the future. Maybe you are too. I think Isaiah has exactly what we need to hear today.
Not once in today’s Old Testament reading does Isaiah tell the people what to do. Instead, he offers a vision. It’s less about what to do and more about a direction in which to move. Isaiah offers values not just to believed but rather to be lived and enacted. The vision he offers never ends, it’s always unfolding and enlarging.
He offers a vision of who God is and the desires, longings, and hopes God has for us. And it’s not just one thing. It’s a buffet of beautiful, soaring, and poetic images of what life can be like. Each image is an entry point into the divine life. Take a look at the buffet. What whets your appetite?
What parts of this vision capture your imagination, ignite your passion, and cause your heart to sing out, “Yes! Yes, that’s it!”
Is it the part in which God says, “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth?” And if so, why does that grab you? What possibilities do you imagine? What needs to be created anew in you? How might you be a co-creator with God of the new heavens and earth? What kind of place do you want to leave to those who will follow you? What is this vision asking of you? Where and in what ways can you make a difference and bring about something new?
Or maybe it’s the part in which God says, “No more shall the sound of weeping be heard … or the cry of distress.” Wouldn’t that be nice? No weeping, no cries of distress, just the heartbeat of life. Do you hear the hope in that? Is that your vision for the future; for yourself, others, Uvalde? That day is coming but it begins today with our compassion, love, healing, and grace for ourselves and one another. Is that something you can give yourself to? If that’s your vision for the future then what is being asked of you today?
How about that part in which God says that we shall not labor in vain and that our children and descendants will be blessed? Is that the vision that’s important to you and, if so, why? What do you see when you imagine work, the daily things we do whether paid or not, that is meaningful and makes a difference in the lives others? What would that look like in your life? What’s the blessing you want to give others? And how might you become that blessing?
And there’s that part of the vision in which God says, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together…. They shall not hurt or destroy.” It’s an image of nonviolence and reconciliation. Is that your heart’s deep desire for the future? What if we lived in a world of nonviolent families, schools, and workplaces; nonviolent political, economic, and justice systems; nonviolent cities? Is that what you want the future to be and, if so, how might you begin to cultivate nonviolence toward yourself, others, and creation? What relationships are in need of reconciliation? How would you live a nonviolent life in your thoughts, words, and actions?
With each aspect of this vision God is giving us wings to soar but it is up to us give the vision roots by which we ground it in our lives and the lives of one another. We need both soaring wings and grounded roots.
Imagine if we all took a piece of this vision and gave it our prayer, time, and energy. Imagine if we gave that vision roots in our lives and relationships, if we let it be the lens through which we see one another, if we let it guide how we think, what we say, and the things we do. Imagine the possibilities.
What does that look like for you today? What feelings does it bring up in you? What does it inspire in you? What is it asking of you? And what might it offer you and this town?
I wonder what vision is taking root in your life today and what fruit it might bear tomorrow.
Image Credit: “Tomorrow” by Miki Takahashi on Behance, CC BY-NC 4.0
A fantastic thought provoking sermon . Thankyou
Amen and amen! You are and have done a lot Father Mike. St. Philip’s is providing a counseling center that is so needed. St. Philip’s continues to offer a large space for other healing projects that have happened in Uvalde. My prayers continue for healing.
Beautiful. Thank you. My thinking has been going in circles. Maybe that’s why I preached on Jesus’ statement not to prepare ahead of time. (That’s not the conclusion I reached in my sermon. 😂)
Thank Father Mike. I have thought of you and your parishioners often as Uvalde is now “mentioned in passing” and I have lifted in you in prayer as certainly the circumstances you find yourself facing every day – have not passed. And thank you for these inspiring words: “With each aspect of this vision God is giving us wings to soar but it is up to us give the vision roots by which we ground it in our lives and the lives of one another. We need both soaring wings and grounded roots.”
Wings to soar and roots to ground us in pursuit of God’s vision. It is frightening to soar – away from what we have come to know- even when what we know is not what we want. To trust that what could be – even if we have yet to know what that is – is far better than anything we can imagine in the moment – if we endeavor to release ourselves from the chains of sin and false identities that behold us to the former things.
It is a great source of strength to see Isaiah pass on God’s words (The Message version), “Before they call out, I’ll answer. Before they finish speaking, I have heard. Thank you, Rev. Marsh, for your focus on Isaiah’s vision.