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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

“I Have a Dream,”  Part 2
May 6, 2010

Last week I began in this column a series on clarifying our vision for God’s purposes for Pittsburgh Presbytery. Speaking of “vision,” the Revised Common Lectionary takes us to the culmination of the greatest vision in Scripture, the last chapter of the book of Revelation. In John’s vision, heaven descends to earth, transforming the nations and leaders of this world into peoples who give God all the glory, rather than seeking to establish or expand their own claims to territory and power.  The world as described in Revelation’s previous scenes is not a pretty place – full of strife, blood-lust, drivenness to dominate, hostility to God’s reign. Resistance to divine rule is the driving force of human society. But God refuses to let that be the final word, waging battle against all that would harm or destroy, until the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth as the waters cover the sea.

The most important thing about Revelation’s vision is its end: God wins. Peace wins. Justice wins. Healing wins. The vision of Revelation leads up to and derives from this fundamental conviction: Jesus Christ is Victor.  

So what does that have to do with us as we seek to discern God’s vision for Pittsburgh Presbytery? Plenty, I think. First, this vision is profoundly realistic. There is no hint of sugarcoating the force and breadth of the world’s disorder. Everything is messed up; creation is far from the goodness of its original intention. Our vision must begin with the frank acknowledgment that our world – indeed, our presbytery – is fundamentally broken. Otherwise, why do we need a Savior?

While our vision is unflinchingly realistic about our world’s needy condition, it is also profoundly hopeful, because it is persuaded that there is indeed a Redeemer committed to renovate our disorder, Jesus Christ the Lord. This Redeemer offers himself not merely to those who “get” what he is about, but as atonement – literally, “at-onement” – for the brokenness of the whole world.

Finally, Revelation ends with a vision of the world’s peoples enjoying wholeness, the “healing of the nations” afforded by the Tree of Life. Tears evaporate, death disappears. Despite all the traumas of wars along the way, Revelation is in the end a profoundly hopeful vision. Can our vision for Pittsburgh Presbytery be anything less than this vision, of a disordered world set right by the redeeming work of Jesus Christ that yields wholeness in personal lives and mutual relationships?

Next week I begin refracting this into a brief vision statement. For now, suffice it to say that our vision for the shape of our life must correspond to the biblical vision of God’s reign. Some will say that it is just a pipe dream of what might be in a perfect world, but never will be in the world as we know it.  But people infected by gospel hope will not give ground; they will insist on pressing for a world where the lion shall lay down with the lamb, where all warring and striving and injustice will cease. Will we be that people?

For heaven’s sake,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Presbytery

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