�Seeing Visions and Hearing Voices� by p3qM75z

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									                          “Seeing Visions and Hearing Voices”
                       Colossians 1:11-20; Habakkuk 2:1-3 – Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn
           First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Anniston, Alabama – November 25, 2007



  Holy God, bless the speaking and the hearing of these words that we might be

  strengthened with your power, inspired by your vision and filled with the joy of

                   your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.



      When I was preparing for ordination, one of the requirements of the

committee that was directing the process was a rigorous, ten-hour psychological

examination. They outsourced it to a licensed psychologist do it, of course, and he

used a variety of instruments to figure out if I was a fruit or a nut. Now,

fortunately, the guy they had do these tests understood the religious nature of his

subjects’ goals, and he knew that some of the standardized personality tests

available to analyze us gave answers that might have been misleading. It’s a funny

thing, for example, to be tested for your fitness for a religious vocation, and to

have to decide how to answer questions like, “Have you ever heard voices?” or

“Have you ever seen something that wasn’t really there?”

      Keeping the context in mind, the analyst promised he didn’t make any

assumptions that saying yes meant you were crazy. On the other hand, I suppose

another problem for insecure seminarians would be admitting they hadn’t ever




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heard any voices or seen any visions. What if they weren’t crazy enough to be a

pastor?

      To be honest, I don’t really remember how I answered those questions. And

I’m not sure my answers would be any different today. But I have seen a vision,

and I hope that you can see it too.

      Today is an interesting day. All through the month of November, every

Sunday, we’ve had something special to celebrate. There was All Saints Day, and

then we had TJ’s dedication, and then last week was Thanksgiving. But this week,

at first glance, is just an ordinary Sunday. This year is a little unusual, actually, in

that we have this extra Sunday after Thanksgiving and before Advent starts. It

gives us just a bit of time to catch our breath in between celebrations.

      So is this, in fact, just an ordinary Sunday? You could say that it’s the last

Sunday of Ordinary Time, if you were liturgically minded. The way the liturgical

year works, the important seasons stand out, starting with Advent and Christmas

and moving through Epiphany, Lent and Easter and then on to Pentecost. Then we

come to this long stretch of time, sometimes referred to the season of the church,

but more normally referred to as “Ordinary Time.” It’s a rather pitiful name really,

implying that nothing much will be going on again, until at least December.

      I read an email post the other day from another Disciples pastor who is

working hard to revitalize his congregation. He wrote that when he arrived they



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had a banner in the sanctuary celebrating “Ordinary Time.” He made them take it

down, and told them he didn’t want to hear anybody talking about “Ordinary

Time.” If you have to refer to it, he said, call it “Extraordinary Time.”

      That’s a much more inspiring name, isn’t it? How would you like to claim it

for our own? It seems fitting to me, my friends, for this church is indeed living in

an “Extraordinary Time.” This is not “just an ordinary Sunday;” this is an

extraordinary Sunday! Though the special celebrations we have shared this month

were important occasions for our community, and though the excitement of Advent

is almost upon, today we have the opportunity to focus on the thing that is most

important: our conviction that in Christ, all the fullness of God was pleased to

dwell and that through him, God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself.

How can that be ordinary?

      It is, in fact, not ordinary. It is huge. It is motivational. It is life-changing.

And becoming more and more aware of how it has changed our lives, this

congregation is on the move. Since this summer, we have become aware that God

is waking us up, prodding us to action, pulling us forward into a future of hope and

growth. This fall at our retreat, many of you signed personal commitments to join

in a movement for renewal. New small groups have formed; new prayer

disciplines have been taken on; new life is being experienced.




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      Next Sunday, the members of this congregation will have a chance to

formalize our commitment to following God into the future. You will be asked to

vote on a new mission statement. It is a statement full of action words – words like

worship, prayer, study, stewardship, service, seeking and welcome. It is a

statement that reflects a vision that God has sent to this congregation about what

we can become through the power of the Holy Spirit working amongst us.

      The prophet Habakkuk lived in an extraordinary time. He was looking to

God for guidance about how to bring his people some hope, some direction, some

wisdom. Well, actually, that might be cleaning it up a bit. Habakkuk himself

admits that he was waiting to see if God would respond to his complaint. He

wanted an answer. And he got one.

      “Write the vision,” God told him, “make it plain on tablets, so that a runner

may read it. … If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come.” Put it out there,

God said. Make sure people know what it is we’re doing here, what it is that is

taking place, even if it doesn’t seem to have started yet. “Without a vision”

Proverbs tells us, “the people perish.” So Habakkuk needed to make sure everyone

could see the vision that God had given him. He needed to make sure everyone

could hear that voice. And I’m sure there were some people who thought he was

crazy, seeing things that weren’t really there and hearing voices that others

couldn’t detect. But who ended up in the Bible, after all? Not his detractors, but



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Habakkuk himself. It is a fine line between a visionary and a nutcase, but usually

the test of time will tell. I cannot promise you that our vision will survive as long

as Habakkuk’s, but maybe it doesn’t need to. The mission statement on the front

of your bulletin is a vision for this moment in time, this threshold that we are on

today. If we follow it and live into it and fulfill it, then one day it will need to be

replaced with another vision more timely to that future moment. Such is the nature

of mission statements.

      This is an extraordinary Sunday. I acted as though there were nothing

special about it at all, but if you were paying attention, you know that’s not quite

true. As the last Sunday of the month, today is a Growing Sunday. You may have

been ignoring the significance of such occasions, but the time has come to pay

attention. If we are to be a congregation dedicated to opening ourselves to God’s

spirit of renewal, we will have to learn to keep growing foremost in our minds.

Once a month, we remind ourselves that it’s not because I want more people to

preach to that we’re asked to invite folks to church; it’s because Jesus commanded

us to go and make disciples. It’s because here in this place, every extraordinary

Sunday and the special ones too, we celebrate the fact that in Christ we have come

to know the fullness of God and we have been reconciled to him, and there are lots

of people who need to know that.




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      This congregation has a very specific personality. Has it not occurred to you

that there are some people in this area who simply will not be able to become part

of a church family if they don’t find this one? Because it’s true. There are specific

people in our community who need the nourishment we share here, and they need

it to be served just the way we serve it. We have been praying for them for seven

months now. It is time to start doing something for them besides praying.

      Have you heard the voice? Have you seen the vision? Are you crazy

enough to come on this journey with us? It’s okay to admit it, because God is the

one leading the pack. This week, on Thursday, we will begin a new season of

prayer for this process. Next Sunday, we’ll vote on our mission statement. But

then the real fun begins. After that is when we open ourselves to the guidance of

the Holy Spirit and see what happens. “If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will

surely come.” And in the meantime, let us share in the blessing of the Colossians:

“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,

and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving

thanks to the Father.” Alleluia and Amen!




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