David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, wrote one week ago about the loss of a national “vision” in this country. He suggests we may have held such a vision at the beginning, but we lost it along the way. He concludes his article with this statement: “What’s needed is an act of imagination, somebody who can tell us what our goal is and offer an ideal vision of what the country and the world should be.”
Is that an invitation to the church, or what?
We have a vision of what can be and should be. We pray about it almost every Sunday in almost every Christian church. “Thy Kingdom come on earth…” That is our alternative vision to where the world seems to be headed.
One new proposed federal budget out of Washington calls for a huge increase in the defense budget—an increase of almost unprecedented magnitude. And yet the Psalmist writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (20:8) Or this: “[God’s] pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (147:10-11).
Our vision for America—and indeed for all humanity—is clearly an alternative to missiles, ships, planes, bombs and ever more sophisticated tools of war. We have a vision to proclaim that is quite different, more enduring, and full of love and compassion.
When I was ordained an Elder many years ago, I was invited by the ordaining bishop to place my hand on a verse in the Bible that meant something special to me. I chose Isaiah 40:9: “Go up onto a high mountain….lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’”
This is our vision. This is the leadership role of the church in a difficult and often confusing time.
David Brooks says we now find ourselves trekking through a landscape of broken institutions. Not any more! Not the would-be followers of Jesus. The people of God speak with conviction and assurance. Jesus teaches it and exemplifies it beyond all measure. He then invites us to pray fervently and passionately once more, “Thy Kingdom come…” And then to act upon that vision courageously.