Saturday, October 17, 2015

Catch the Vision! - Micah 6:6-8 Philippians 3:7-14

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

Philippians 3:7-14

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

          About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America.

The first year they established a town site.  

The next year they elected a town government.  

The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

In the fifth year, the town began to die.

          That is amazing!  Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

          Proverbs 19:18 tells us that "A people without a vision will perish."

          Not long ago I read about a study about aging.  The research was trying to determine some of the lifestyles shared in common among those who had lived a long, long life.  One thing the study uncovered was that people who lived a long life always had a vision for the future. 
One of the people interviewed in the study had to be interviewed while he was planting a row of cedar trees.  He didn't have time to stop and answer questions, so the research team had to ask questions while he dug holes and planted trees.  After the survey questions had been asked and answered, someone on the research team asked the man, "Why are you planting so many trees?"
"It's a wind breaker,” he said.  "Every winter the wind blows across this field and hits my house and I never can get it warmed up.  In 10 or 20 years, these trees will have grown up so they will keep the wind from blowing on my house."
That man was 98 years old, but he had a vision for the future. 
By the time he's 118, he's finally going to have a warm house!
That kind of vision keeps you going.
What kind of vision do we have?  Or do we have one?  In our first hymn this morning, there is that great verse:

Long years have come and gone,
And still God reigns supreme,
Empowering us to catch the vision, dream the dream!

What is the vision of our church?  What is the dream that we have for our congregation?

Why does this Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church exist?

We are exist – we are here to make a difference in the lives of people.

You have probably received a letter from the church several days ago inviting you to consider your giving to this church in the year ahead.  Why would anyone give good money to this church? 

One reason.  Just one – we are making a difference in the lives of people.

We heard it read in our Old Testament lesson a moment ago.

In Micah, the question is asked about making an offering to God.  The person is struggling with what kind of offering to make.

With what shall I come before the Lord
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn …

That is a good question to ask at a time of the year when the church is inviting you to consider what kind of contributions you will make in the year to come.

And the answer in Micah is this:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

That is our vision as a church.  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Or to condense it even further – our vision as a church is to make a difference.

We make a difference in Haiti.  We are working to provide clean water for the Good Shepherd School and we are doing other things to support the work there.

We make a difference in the children at Eccleston.  Not long ago you helped provide uniform shirts for the students there, and throughout the year we have people going there to work as mentors.

When this church takes your money, your offerings, and pays the light bill – how is that making a difference? 

Very simply, this church is hopping – it is always busy.  We provide a facility not for our selfish needs, but for the community so that we can make a difference.  This building is mostly for outreach – not for us.

We have a group meeting here that ministers to families in which one of the family members died in a homicide.  It is my understanding there is no other program like this in our area. 

Next month Camp Healing Hearts will meet at our church.  That is an incredible program that ministers to young people from age 7 through 15 who have experienced a death of a loved one. 

          There is the Small Blessings Child Care.  For the families with elderly who need supervision through the day, we have Share the Care. 

          Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Youth Group, Bible Studies, simple fellowship of friends who work on crafts and provide refreshing company for one another.

          The list goes on and on, and in these that I have mentioned I have probably left out 99% of the many things this church does to make a difference in the lives of people.

This is the mission of our church – to change lives.

And when we lose that vision to change lives, we will die as a church.

Because the words from the Old Testament book of Proverbs is correct, “without a vision, the people perish.”

Let me share with you some very sad news I received a couple of weeks ago.  The news was about a church where I had been the pastor several years ago – I guess 10, 15 years ago.

The county of the city has informed them that if they do not make extensive repairs in their building, the church facilities will be condemned and torn down.

When an elder called me to let me know that this church would be closing around Easter Sunday, I asked “what happened to that church?  When the church lose its momentum?”

Without any hesitation the elder told me that it was the day the session decided to close the school.

You see, on the campus of that church was a school that served special needs children, and if you asked anyone in the community what that church did to make a difference, the answer would always be that school. 

But the Session voted to close it because there had always been members who didn’t feel comfortable with these children.  These kids were loud, they were awkward, they were different, whatever.

Then they began closing some of the other programs in the church because the elders discovered that when they cut these programs for the community, they saved money.

And who doesn’t want to save money?

But here is the thing – if a church is not spending money in ways that make a difference in the lives of people, then God seems to cut off the funds.  They spent less money, and month after month, the church received less money.

Because it is true, without a vision the people perish.

So come Easter Sunday, that church will have their last worship service, and they will cease to be a church.

But I think they ceased to be a church a few years ago.

But in THIS church, here at Grace Covenant – we have a vision.  Our vision is to make a difference.

This is reason we ask our members to contribute to the offering, and the reason we are encouraging you to consider increasing your giving.  We make a difference.  Your church is changing lives. 

And in the words of Paul from our New Testament Lesson, we are pressing onto the goal.  We are not going to do less.  We are going to do more – because with a vision, the people prosper.

Copyright 2015. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.