Last week Fr. Chris challenged us to have a vision for our spiritual lives. He asked where we see ourselves to be spiritually in 3 months or 3 years or 10 years. His point is that we don’t mature by osmosis. He suggested that a good place to begin is with our baptismal covenant and the responsibilities that we promise the Lord that we will undertake. Fr. Chris wrote later, “spiritual growth is not an accident. It has to be a priority and a discipline.” I could not agree more.
So I want to piggyback on his sermon today and suggest to you that having a vision of where you are going begins with a vision of how you see yourself. So who are you? How do you see yourself in relation to God? What do you think that God thinks about you? Your answers will definitely impact your journey.
If you see God as an angry teacher then you will tend to sit in the very back of the class so that He never calls on you. If you see yourself as that last kid that God would pick to be on His team then you will be a no show to the game. If you see yourself as that loser child who is always disappointing his Father then you imagine that every time God see you He lets out a heavy sigh. If you see God as strict taskmaster then you go through your day flinching every time you think that He is about to give you a smack.
The vision that you have of God and of yourself in relationship to God will affect how much you are willing to sacrifice to accomplish your spiritual goals. If the vision is not compelling then the sacrifice simply will not be worth it. But if the vision is compelling then come hell or high water you will do what needs to be done.
First lets tackle the question of how the Lord sees you. We just read it in the Psalm. 149 vs. 4. It says “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people.” There is a beautiful passage in the prophet Zephaniah that takes it a step further.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior,
Who will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
Who will sing joyfully because of you,
Does that fit with your current vision of God, that He rejoices with gladness and sings with joy because of you? This is the God that Jesus came to reveal to us. One who wants us to call him “Father” and is so concerned about every facet of our lives that He knows the number of the hairs on our heads. (Some of us make His job easier). If you ever doubt His love for you then go back to good Friday and remember what He gave up to make you His own. He literally moved heaven and earth to redeem you.
That is how God sees us. So how are we to see ourselves? According to the Scriptures first and foremost we are to see ourselves as people who are in Christ. When you were baptized you were buried with Christ and raised with Him to a new life. This means that you no longer belong to yourself. Jesus tells us that He is the Vine and we are the branches and apart from Him we can do nothing. He is the Bridegroom and we are the Bride “and the two shall be as one.” He unites Himself to us through offering us His Body and Blood so that when we receive the consecrated bread and wine we receive Him. That is how united we are with Him. This is our identity. Who are we? We are “in Christ” that is who we are.
St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians prays that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to understand three other things that will impact how we see our selves. First he prays that we would know the hope to which He has called us.
As most of you know, hope is used in a very different way in the New Testament than we use it in today. In the New Testament, hope is a reality in God that we have not yet realized. But it is so certain of a reality that it should affect how we live our lives today.
If you knew that your name was in an irrevocable trust and that at some point in the future that you would inherit a vast fortune, do you think it would have an impact on how you live your life today? Of course it would. If nothing else you wouldn’t any longer worry about your financial future. You would also most likely live more joyously and more generously.
Well our future in Christ is more certain than an irrevocable trust and as St. Paul prayed, may the eyes of our heats be enlightened to see it.
And what is that hope, what is the reality yet to be realized? It is the promised return of Christ. It is the promised resurrection of the dead. It is the promise that these bodies of corruption will be exchanged for incorruptible ones. It is the promise that we will be joint heirs with Christ in a new heaven and a new earth. It is the promise that we will be with the Lord forever.
And should this hope affect how we live our lives today? How could it not? Our hope is what gives us different priorities from the world as well as different values and different goals. The world is about grabbing all the gusto and “he who dies with the most toys wins.” But we are to be about loving God with all of our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The world is about storing up riches on earth. We are to be about storing up riches in heaven. We understand that while you can’t take it with you, you can send it on ahead by being good stewards of the Lord’s resources. The certainty of our future, our hope, most definitely influences how we live from day to day. If it does not then the eyes of your heart still needs to be enlightened.
The next thing that St. Paul prays for us is in some translations that we would know of his glorious inheritance AMONG the saints. Actually the way this sentence is structured it can also read, as our translation does, that we would know his glorious inheritance IN the saints. They are God’s glorious inheritance. This brings to mind the time of persecution in the early church when the deacon was ordered to turn over the treasures of the church to the governing officials and a couple of days later the deacon brought them the poor and the sick. He understood the true riches of the Church.
“His glorious inheritance in the saints” brings us to our celebration today that is a continuation of our celebration of All Saints’ last Wednesday. The Scriptures tell us to give honor where honor is due and so the Church has made a principle feast and given us two opportunities for doing just that. When you consider it, you realize that we stand on some pretty broad shoulders. It is almost beyond our imaginations what those before us have gone through and suffered and sacrificed in order to give us the precious heritage that we hold so dear. This leaves us with the question if we are willing to do the same for those who come after us? The “faith once delivered to the saints” is a treasure that we are to pass on without addition or dilution.
The third thing for which he prays is that we would know the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe. If God willed all of these wonderful things for us, but did not have the power to bring them about, then our hope would be nothing more than a wish. But because of His power then all things are possible and so we do not hope in vain. His sovereignty over all secures us in our daily lives and allows us to rest in His will.
In his new book called Anxious For Nothing, Max Lucado tells of a time when he was visiting in Brazil with a long time friend who was a missionary pilot. Max said, He flew a circuit of remote towns in a four-seat plane that threatened to come undone at the slightest gust of wind. Wilbur and Orville had a sturdier aircraft.”
As they were flying over the jungle Max’s mind was filled with visions of crash landing and being swallowed by an anaconda. He gripped his seat and squirmed like a kid. Finally the pilot shouted to him over the noise of the engine, “We won’t face anything that I can’t handle. You might as well trust me to fly the plane.”
If we were to really know the greatness of God’s power toward us, we absolutely could trust Him to fly the plane. Because of the greatness of His power we can see events in our lives as reflections of His loving and powerful care. While not everything that happens to us every day is a direct result of the hand of God, you don’t have to have too many divine appointments happen before you start to doubt coincidences and start believing that the Shepherd is watching over His sheep.
Some people doubt that the Lord is that intimately involved in each of our lives but that is because, to quote JB Phillips, their god is too small. If He can spin universes off of His fingertips then He can get you where you need to be when you need to be there. When I think back over my life I realize that if x or y or z did not happen then I would not be who or where I am today. What brought about the x or y or z in my life if not the power of the Lord? It wasn’t an alignment of the planets and it certainly wasn’t my doing. I’m not smart enough to weave what has become the tapestry of my life.
And where we particularly see His power at work towards us is when He brings good out of evil. In His power He was able to take the execution of the only sinless Man who ever lived and make it the very cause of our salvation. I would imagine that if we had the time that nearly every one here could give a testimony of something happening to them that they would not wish on their worst enemy and yet God was able to work it to the good. People who are able to see His power work in this circumstance are people of faith and often are used as wounded healers. People who cannot see God’s power at work, even among things that go badly, become crippled by bitterness and unforgiveness. So we need to understand His power.
Fr. Chris reminded us last week that we do not fulfill our spiritual vision by wandering aimlessly towards it. As the saying goes, “if you have nothing to aim at you will hit it every time.” But God has not called us to hit nothing. As St. Paul’s prayer demonstrates, God has great intentionality for us. He calls us to a sure vision. He calls us to be enlightened to see that vision. He calls us to see ourselves through His eyes and as a result we will do whatever it takes to see the vision fulfilled.
Let us pray. “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” Amen.