Jesus the Visionary

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Proper 8/Year C: July 7, 2019
Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, July 7, 2019

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

This is an excerpt from Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”[1] It is a brief poem in which the narrator is on a journey to his home. He reflects on the necessity to keep moving forward to fulfill promises before he can sleep, which may be a metaphor for death.

It strikes me that the mission field, just beyond the four walls of the church, is like the woods described by the narrator—it can be intoxicatingly lovely, distractingly dark and terrifyingly deep. Missioners who show up to serve God’s people know, in the depths of their souls, that the work—the journey— demands miles to go before rest.

Speaking of miles to go before resting, what a journey WCEC has been privileged to walk. This journey of faith community formation began long before I was called to serve as the diocesan missioner. This journey started when God called our bishop, Bishop Dabney Smith, and the leaders of this diocese into the kingdom-building work of visioning in possibility—a journey of church planting from vision to fruition.

Luke’s travel narrative captures Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem—where he will fulfill his purpose for God’s plan of salvation history. The travel narrative is an extensive 10-chapter section[2], which takes great care to honor Jesus’ journey to the cross. Journey and destination—inextricably entangled.

A journey moves toward a destination—a purpose. And a destination ceases to exist without a journey leading to it. Journey and destination—inextricably entangled.

Such is the life of the disciple, a life-long journey, patterned by the life of Jesus, ever moving toward the destination of eternal rest in God. The journey demands miles to go before rest.

In our passage today, Jesus appointed 70 disciples, and sent them ahead of him into places where he intended to go.

Knowing that the life of a disciple is neither for the faint of heart, nor the weak in stomach, Jesus prepared them, and empowered his disciples with a vision that would carry them through long after he had departed from them.

  • Travel light and stay focused;
  • Offer “Peace” to the house; which will not be wasted if it is rejected;
  • Be consistent; don’t house-hop;
  • In acceptance and in rejection, there is always an opportunity to proclaim, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”;
  • Embody my authority on the journey;
  • And, rejoice in the assurance that your names are written in heaven.

Jesus was a visionary. And he called other visionaries to serve in the mission field, then and now, who would journey with him by faith, fully expecting that that which is not yet visible will be made manifest in God’s time.

Like the disciples sent out by Jesus in our passage, missioners are not lone rangers, sent out unprepared. We are sent out, equipped with the Gospel message and guided by our Baptismal Covenant, to engage the risky journey into the 21st century mission field “out there” like lambs in the midst of wolves.

WCEC’s visionary missioners have indeed been on a journey. The first visioning meeting took place with three missioners, a diocesan staff member and me in October 2017. As more interest surfaced we sought a home base where the important work of visioning could continue, and bring forth glimpses of a hoped-for reality.

From car dealership conference rooms to private homes, we were led to Savanna Church in February 2018, where we shared our first Ash Wednesday worship service.  Since then, our faith community has experienced many “firsts”—our first Holy Eucharist the day after I was ordained a priest on May 9, 2018. Our first Christmas Eve midnight Mass; Holy Week and Easter; and most recently, our first Bishop’s visit and Confirmation in May.  Thanks be to God!

Throughout this winding and demanding journey, people have come and gone; and people have come and stayed.  Because of the people who have come and stayed, we gather today to glorify God in our new church home.

Today, for so many reasons, looks and feels like we have reached our destination, having traveled through the wilderness of church in my car trunk with weekly pre-dawn church set-up and the post-service packing up.

But we would be doing a great disservice to ourselves, and to this ministry, to limit the unfolding divine mission of God to that which we can see and feel in this temporal experience.

Our reality is that the hard work prior to this day was just a preview. There is much, urgent, kingdom-building work to be done, and there are miles to go before we rest.

As Christ’s disciples, we have promises to keep, and we must be faithful to our promise to God to proclaim the good news of God in Christ, and to love God and our neighbors, in this life-long journey with Jesus.

We journey ahead understanding that our destination is our eternal home with God.  Our journey with Jesus, and the destination of life eternal with God are inextricably entangled.

Come and dream with us.  Come and vision with us. Come and walk faithfully with us in this divine, co-creative dance with God to bring forth His vision to save the lives of those who do not yet know his son through this instrument of God’s grace—Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church.

And so, my sisters and brothers, TODAY we gather in this sacred space to celebrate faith in vision, continuity in tradition and hope in the restorative power of Jesus Christ. Tomorrow, we will labor on with our kingdom-building work as light bringers and hope bearers for a hurting and broken world, knowing that there are miles to go before we see Jesus face to face and rest eternally with God.  In the meantime, in this in-between time, we have miles to go before we rest…so many miles before we rest.

Amen.

[1] Frost, Robert. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. https://poets.org/poem/stopping-woods-snowy-evening. Accessed July 4, 2019.

[2] Luke 9:51-19:27

Image Credit: Van Celedon (www.photosvan.com)