Towards Vision
Rev. 1 and John 20-21
By Paul Robison

On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to exert pressure on the Kennedy administration to pass a civil rights bill.  The speaker at this rally was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and here are a few of the words that he said:  “I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.  It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'  I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. ... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ... I have a dream today.  I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”   This speech is one of the clearest modern examples of a leader communicating a vision to others.  Visions can be powerful.  There a basically three questions to this sermon: What is vision?  What is our eternal vision?  What is our congregational vision?
 
Vision has been described in this way: “A vision is more than an idea or an emotion―it is a desire that captures the heart and mind and brings together the resources of the group toward whatever action is necessary to cause the vision to become a concrete reality. ... A group HAS its wish or dream, but a vision HAS the group.  Wishers and dreamers attempt to shape the future through much conversation, while a vision shapes the people through conviction that leads to action” (Shawchuck).  This definition shows us that vision is more than an idea or emotion.  It captures our hearts, and unites our resources, and stimulates us to do something toward making that vision become a reality.  It stirs our convictions and even causes us to make sacrifices in order to advance that vision.  Notice also that vision is shared; it involves a group, and often there are many cooperative efforts among those involved.  Someone has said: “In order for a congregation to be possessed by a vision, members must have a 'clear eye' toward their own situation and a 'big ear' toward God” (Ibid.).  If a vision possesses us, excites us, animates us, where is our enthusiasm?  Does anything about this congregation excite us or is it just “business as usual”--endure another worship service, shake a few hands, and then go home feeling about as burdened as when we arrived?  Like the one talent man, have we buried our vision to avoid its demands?  A vision has the group and shapes its members.  What is compelling, is shaping, and is driving us?  Are we aiming for something truly noble motivated by our deep conviction or are we just going through the motions to fulfill our Christian duty and to punch our Sunday time-card?  Why don't we add to a clear eye and a big ear, a joyful heart, willing feet, and loving hands also towards discovering a vision?  Here's a parable for your consideration.  Imagine a beautiful tour bus pulls up to a group waiting patiently.  They eagerly board for the free ride and are immediately impressed with the plush seats, colorful interior, and huge windows!  After riding for half an hour, someone hollers: “Hey, where are we going?”  “Leave that to me,” says the driver.  He then switches on multiple TV screens, which pleases almost all.  The bus then blows a tire, and the driver asks for volunteers to help change it.  With much coercing, the job finally gets done, and all are traveling again.  The driver pulls into a gas station and announces that the bus is running on fumes and that a collection will be made.  The passengers shake their heads in disbelief.  The tank is half-filled, and they are back on road with many restless riders (apparently, the vehicle's beauty wasn't enough to make up for the people's need to know their destination).  Now imagine the same driver, but this time he arrives in a rickety old school bus.  He pulls up to the same group and exclaims: “There's a fire down at the elementary school, and we need some help in evacuating the kids!”  Immediately, the crowd jams on board.  Guess what?  They don't even notice the ripped plastic seats, rusty spots, or size of the windows.  Nobody complains about the bumpy ride either.  Why?  A tire blows, but the driver has more than enough volunteers to get it changed quickly!  Gas is needed to reach the school, and suddenly, the tank is filled.  Why?  These riders are anxious.  Someone at the back hollers, “How much further to the school?  We want to help those kids!”  Others nod in agreement, and all holler in unison, “Driver, step on it!  We have a job to do!” (illustration from MAP planner)  Vision is powerful, isn't  it?  On which bus is our congregation?    
 
The next question is: What is our eternal vision?  The answer is found in Revelation 1:10-20, and it's eternal because it is valid from the time John saw it through eternity.  Let's notice it: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as a trumpet, saying: 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and Last' and what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.'  Then I turned to see that voice that spoke with me.  And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girdled about the chest with a golden band.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.  He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.  And when I saw Him, I feel at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me saying to me, 'Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last, I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and Death.  Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.  The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches'” (Revelation 1:12-20).  What an eternal vision that should excite, sober, and comfort us!  The phrases “Alpha and Omega” and “the First and Last” show that the One speaking is divine, who lives from eternity to eternity.  With an authoritative voice, Jesus orders John to write what he will see.  The description of Jesus is portraying Him as a judge: the garment down to His feet is similar to a judge's robe; the chest with the golden band represents supremacy; white hair like snow represents purity and dignity; eye like flames of fire represent Jesus' capacity to penetrate all disguises and to see things as they really are; His feet like brass show strength and beauty, as does His voice which sounds like many waters; that two-edged sword coming from His mouth is probably like the short Roman dagger and stands for justice and righteous judgment; His face, being absolutely brilliant, shows His power and the inability for anyone to escape His penetrating light.  Oh, beloved, my words are too inadequate for us to even grasp the half of this great vision of the risen Jesus!  It so moved John that he fell to the ground being overwhelmed.  It was so magnificent, so majesty, so powerful, so awesome, so terrifying!  But now notice carefully, the One who is the Eternal Judge is also the Comforter and Protector of John and the Asian churches.  Although Jesus walks in the midst of the churches, the individual is still important, and He puts His hand upon John to comfort his fear.  In a time when the Roman Empire is persecuting the churches, listen to Jesus' words of hope as He states His autobiography.  “Don't be afraid of Me or anything else for I am the Eternal One, and I am ALIVE forevermore.  I am the One who holds the keys to death, not Rome, My disciples!  The churches, and all My congregations, are resting securely and solidly in My right hand!”  Brethren, if Jesus IS for us, who can be against us?  Jesus, the Eternal Judge, is ever ready to punish evil and to comfort to the righteous.  Have we forgotten this?  The One who is alive and lives forevermore is our Protector and Comforter.  Do we really believe this?  “Thus we would go on missions of mercy, following Christ from day unto day: cheering the faint, and raising the fallen, pointing the lost to Jesus, the way” (Ogden)  “How sweet, how heavenly is the sight when those that love the Lord in one another's peace delight, and so fulfill the Word” (Swain).  Brethren, are we working hard to make these great visions become realities?  Try an experiment: over the next two weeks, please open your Bible, and simply read again Revelation 1:10-20.  Look at Jesus carefully for two weeks; that's the first part of your homework.
 
Now on to the third question: What is our congregational vision?  You see, the eternal vision is our Lord, but a congregational vision gets it back to the local situation right here in Prescott, AR.  Now let's turn to John 21.  Now there's four questions here to consider as you think about a congregational vision.  My reading of the text is going to be allegorical, but the goal of this approach is to get us all thinking and reflecting.  In chapter 21, Peter decides to go back to his boat and do some fishing.  Six other disciples decide to tag along, and they fish all night, but catch nothing.  Then Jesus stands on the shoreline early in the morning.  Notice verse 5: “Then Jesus said to them, 'Children, have you any food?'  They answered Him, 'No.'”  Notice, that Jesus' question here is appropriate for the occasion; He not asking some far out or off the wall type question.  Now here's the first question to help us in determining our congregational vision: What question, appropriate for our reality and situation, would Jesus be asking us?  We notice that Jesus' question addresses something that they are obviously lacking―some fish or food.  Does Jesus see something so very obvious that we are lacking that He'd be asking us about it?  Or is there something that we really need to be doing that He'd ask us about?  Or would He have some other question to challenge us?  Question one: What question, appropriate for our reality and situation, would Jesus be asking us?  Answering this question can help us to gain a congregational vision.
 
Now look at verse 6: “And He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.'  So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”  This prompts a second question: Where would Jesus tell us to cast our net?  Given our situation and our opportunities, where would Jesus want us focus and use our energies?  Where can we cast to get a good catch and to fulfill that obvious void?  Question two: Where would Jesus tell us to cast our net?  Answering this question can also help us to get closer to a congregational vision.
 
Now look at verses 9-10: "Then, as soon as they came to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread.  And Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.'"  The third question is this: How would Jesus want us to enjoy more fellowship or interaction?  Undoubtedly, Jesus and His disciples enjoyed each other and being together, and Jesus seems to be the instigator of this breakfast.  Jesus is serving His disciples once again.  Who are you serving?  Should we have more meals together, more prayer groups, more congregational outings, more planning sessions?  All elders have been doing some thinking on this.  Keep tuned in to hear more about a new activity.  Third question: How would Jesus want us to enjoy more fellowship or interaction or dialogue?  This question can also help towards developing a congregational vision. 
 
In verses 15-17, we see Jesus challenging Peter to take care of His sheep and to follow Him.  Jesus actually says to Peter in verse 22: “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?  You follow Me.”  That leads to a fourth question: How can we best follow Jesus right here in Prescott, AR?  What would Jesus do to bless this community if He lived with us right here and how would He want us to be imitating Him?  Where would following Him take us and what would we have to change in order to follow Him more closely? 
 
Let's review those four questions towards a congregational vision: What question would Jesus be asking us?  Where would Jesus tell us to cast our net?  How would Jesus want us to enjoy more fellowship or interaction?  How best can we follow Jesus right here in Prescott, AR?  Writing out answers to these four questions is the rest of your homework!  Remember, those questions are on the back of your bulletin.
 
Dr. King also made this statement: "There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right."  King had a dream motivated by his conviction, and in many ways, his dream has become a reality.  What is the vision that possesses us?  What service do we feel compelled to do?  Let's keep our eternal vision of the glorified Jesus while working to develop our congregational vision as well.
 
Let's pray!  “Father, thank You for visions that motivate us to make them realities.  The eternal vision of Jesus as our Judge, Protector, and Comforter motivates us to be more faithful.  Help us to determine a congregational vision that will cause us to do more in the future.  In Jesus' name, Amen.”
 
“And that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:16).  One of God's visions was the church, where all peoples and ethnic groups could be united in Christ, who reconciles of them all to God.  Do you need prayers to have greater vision?  Do you need to be a part of the one body where friendship is restored by Christ to both God and to other disciples?  Being baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit will restore that friendship.  Become a part of God's vision today!