6th Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2007
Keeping Up The Vision
Many people have had experiences that turned them from going in one direction to moving in another. Those experiences might be a crisis in which everything afterwards is different. Those experiences might be spiritual where you feel the call of God to live differently. Today’s scripture text tells us about such a spiritual experience.
The apostle Paul had a vision in the night while he was in Troas. In the vision a man begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (v. 9). Paul and his companions immediately adjusted their course and went to Macedonia to share the gospel there.
Many of us have been moved by various experiences to serve God. We can call those experiences visions. How do we keep the vision clear when so many things pull us off course?
I. Be Open to the Wider World of God
One thing we can do is to keep open to the will of God that is always wider than our own narrow concerns. Paul showed how to do this with his willingness to change course when his original plan did not work.
Someone said that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!
Eugene Peterson, in his book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, tells the story of growing up in a Pentecostal church. There was an old woman in the congregation named Sister Lychen who would have a word of prophecy every Sunday. She’d stand up and say, “The Lord has revealed to me that I will be caught up in the clouds of glory.” She would stand up every week and say this. Eugene’s parents would make him take her cookies, and when he’d get to her house, all the blinds were down, and all the shutters were closed. It was a house of gloom. She was always waiting to die.
That represented the brand of Christianity where the whole purpose was to just get through this life so that life could really start in heaven. Later on, Peterson said he had this fantasy of bursting into Sister Lychen’s house and opening all the blinds and saying, “Sister Lychen, look! There’s a whole world outside! There’s a world of turtles and hummingbirds and hawks and grizzly bears.”
The world is in need so be open to serving God in it.
II. Don’t Let Fear Be the Driving Force
The need to change plans and course might have frightened Paul. After all, he had much invested in his goal to go to Asia. But when this fresh vision came, Paul would not allow fear of the unknown be the driving force of his life.
Author Philip Yancey grew up in fear. He says, “I grew up in a cloistered, narrow church with the blinds down. I was raised by a woman who had been widowed at age 26 – my dad died of polio – and was left with these two boys. Her whole goal in parenting was to shelter us from the world. We weren’t allowed to play outside of the front yard. We couldn’t go roller-skating, because it looked like dancing. We couldn’t even join the Boy Scouts. And the whole idea was to just get through life and hope like crazy that Jesus would come back to get you out of this evil world. Early on, the worst thing the church did was give me a misconception of what God was like. I’ve been trying to overcome that ever since.”
III. Keep Open to the People God Puts in Our Path
When Paul and his friends got to Macedonia they tried to find a synagogue in which to worship. Apparently none existed in Philippi. On the Sabbath they found a group of women gathered by the river to pray. Paul spoke to them and shared the gospel. A woman named Lydia was in that group and “The Lord opened her heart” (v. 14).
Lydia became a helper of Paul and a woman of faith in the area. She was open to the gospel but Paul was open to her and her family. Rather than proceeding with only preconceived ideas, Paul was willing to be open to the new ways of worship and community that God was providing.
Paul’s vision changed everything. Our lives can be transformed by the gospel also. Learn what God is up to and keep that vision clear. (Don Aycock)