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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

“I Have a Dream,” Part 3
May 13, 2010

We use the term “vision” in various ways. Recently I had an eye examination to test my vision. In this case, “vision” refers to my capacity to perceive my world accurately. We also use the term “vision” to describe the range of what our eyes see, as in “field of vision.” Our problem is that we do not always notice what is right in front of our eyes – just ask my wife about my uncanny ability to miss something in the cupboard that is staring me straight in the face. Finally, we use the word “vision” to describe a picture beyond our sight horizon, a dream that takes us beyond the visible world, such as the book of Revelation.

When we speak of our “vision” for the presbytery, we do so in all three of these senses. It has to do with who we are (our ability to see), with what we see in front of us, and with what we perceive beyond our immediate horizon. This vision – whether or not we are aware of it – shapes and drives the things we do, that is, our mission.

Thus, the mission we live depends first of all on who we are. That refers both to our capacity (what we are able to do) and our disposition (what we are inclined to do).  My optometrist may tell me precisely how poor my eyesight is, yet without my willingness to have it corrected, the diagnosis is of no benefit. What good is an eye exam if I have already determined I’ll never wear corrective lenses or undergo optical surgery?

In order for us to attain a clear and transformative vision for our presbytery, we must be “correctable,” or teachable by Jesus Christ, as John Calvin would put it. In his only written reference to his personal conversion experience, Calvin says God changed him from having a “hardened” to a “teachable” mind. Until we are ready to see our world as Christ sees it and to look for a world beyond the one currently set before our eyes, we will have no Gospel vision for our work. Only when we are willing to learn new ways of seeing can we be ready to bear witness to the new world God is creating through Christ Jesus.

As teachable disciples of Jesus, we look searchingly and honestly at the world around us. No matter how elegant our vision of where we want to go, it can do us no good if we have no idea where we are. We quickly discover that the world is far from pretty – broken by sin, desperately in need of healing. Strife reigns instead of peace. Society is ever more polarized, the social fabric fraying into shreds. And the hard truth we must admit is that this brokenness is manifest as much in the church as in the surrounding world. Sisters and brothers, it ought not be so. I recently heard someone describe our situation this way: “We are called to be in the world but not of the world; the church has managed somehow to be of the world but not in the world.”

In our Book of Order we claim that the church is called to exhibit the kingdom of heaven to the world. That is, we publicly set forth in word and deed the love, peace, and joy of God’s reign. We are called to be a counter-culture in and for a broken world. The critical condition for such a church is a Gospel vision focused upon Christ’s reconciling work.

As we continue this series, we will look more closely at these three features of our vision – who we are, how things are, and how things ought to be. Eventually we will craft a brief statement that encapsulates the vision challenge set before us.

Yours in hope,

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

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