May 19, 2014

On Earth, As it is in Heaven

“Truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” 
Matthew 17:20b (ESV)

Our vision statement for The Well is: “Needs met, bridges built, a city made whole.” More than an ideal, this is the destination against which we plot our course - these are the objectives around which we plan our next year, next month and each day’s work. Bearing this in mind, I offer two ongoing challenges to myself and anyone who believes in this vision for the The Well and for our city.

The first challenge is this.

Imagine what it would take to make this vision come true in the most literal sense - the real and tangible changes that must happen in the sprawling ghettos of aging bungalows and public housing projects that encircle Tampa’s city center. 

To visualize a path, it helps to have a clear vision of the destination. I’ve attempted below to describe what I myself imagine our community would look like on some future day if our vision statement were to be realized.
Today, the sun rose over a verdant landscape of orchards and fields as far as my eyes can see, dotted with shiny roofs and bodies of water teeming with life. Homes are nestled among fruit trees and abundant gardens line our curbs. Beyond the grid of streets and sidewalks, there is virtually no concrete or asphalt to be seen. 
The fundamental material needs of all here are met consistently. Every effort is made to ensure that no person goes without shelter, no one is without a safe place to rest. Food - good, healthy food - is in abundance, and readily shared with those who need it. Those fortunate enough to have a surplus voluntarily contribute to provide for “even the least of these.” We judge our quality of life based on our bond with our neighbors and our ability to prevent homelessness, hunger and neglect in our community - not by comparing our lifestyles to those we see in other neighborhoods or in the media. 
Among people of different ages, races, economic status and origins - we have diligently remedied the previous ignorance and disillusionment, we have dismantled the institutions that confer certain privilege only on some. Conflict isn’t extinct, but together we remain committed to reconciling any separation that divides us. We each recognize that we are interdependent on the others, parts of a whole, and only together are we complete. At every opportunity, we choose cooperation over competition. Even the land itself is seen as a shared gift, and we treat it as sacred, contemplating with every choice what we will leave for the next generation. 
As we collectively pursue aspirations greater than ourselves, we discover as individuals a sense of purpose, direction and deep fulfillment. Because we now understand ourselves first as connected beings, we readily submit our knowledge, effort and much of our wealth for common enjoyment and oversight by the community. Even simple gifts of service and material goods now take on a much deeper spiritual significance within the context of our community’s reconciliation over generations. By doing unto others as we would have done to ourselves, we honor not only the commandment but the giver of the command. We remind each other to keep our eyes fixed on the vision, as every day we seek to make the present more closely mirror our future perfection. 
I find it helpful to envision this future reality every night as I fall asleep, and imagine what must be done tomorrow to make it so.

The second challenge I offer you is this.

Learn to believe in our vision enough to see through today’s pain, obstacles, and the seemingly insurmountable amount of work that lies in front of us - and find the faith that will make it a reality. 

Not only should you dream of this future, this dream should haunt your days. You should begin each new day with a clear sense of purpose driven by this singular goal. You should feel compelled to encourage the community by sharing what you’ve envisioned with the rest of us so we can conspire to make it real. Is there truly such a thing as Heaven on Earth? I can't promise you that, but we are commanded to work toward exactly that. I believe with all my being that inasmuch as our community will be made whole, we will each also be made whole in the process.

When is this future? Is it a decade from now? A century or more? In actuality, that day can only come as soon as we believe it to be true. There is a mustard seed hanging in our new office that symbolizes the mountains moved already in 2014. It should be equally as much a reminder of the mountains that we will move tomorrow.

May these words echo in your head until you believe them: “Nothing will be impossible for you.”

5 comments:

  1. Man, I've been thinking about this for weeks! On earth as it is in heaven. It compels me to think: what is heaven like? It's perfect, peaceful, just, and knows no pain...and yet there is pain. Maybe the way to obtaining on earth as it is in heaven is not so much avoiding pain as it is running through it, dancing even, with Jesus by our side. But maybe it's also letting him be Himself, roaming the streets wherever He may. Both as a teacher and as a girl who just really has high hopes, I dream if this in our education system. No grades, no obscure ways of measuring students, but, rather, learning things that matter in ways that matter. Imagine: what if we spent each morning, as teachers, giving students time to listen to God, to teach them that. Begin with worship. :) You all are such a light. I hope you know that your love for the Lord is infectious. I can only hope I'd bring some of that here in the Wisco (Wisconsin for all you non-Wisconsinites :D) I can't thank God enough to know people like you. :)

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  2. Lexi - I think about it a lot too. The tricky bit is staying focused on perfection as the goal without becoming disillusioned about the pace of progress or the real possibility that we won't see complete perfection in our lifetime. Our culture instills and cultivates in us the craving for instant gratification and a sense of entitlement to see the fruits of our labor, but I don't think we should long for either. Laying up treasures in Heaven means being thankful for whatever contribution we can make to the kingdom, regardless of whether we see tangible results during our time here. We're both blessed to be surrounded with people who believe likewise. :)

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  3. I know right? I think so too. It is a tricky balance between hope and patience. Keep our eyes on the goal, but don't miss out on the "little" (really could be big) blessings along the way. I can have this kind of conqueror mentality ( very Roman indeed) of getting somewhere. But it's like that story of the four seminary students who were rushing to be the first to get to the church. Along the way, a man hunched over laid on the side of the street, obviously needing a hospital visit. All but one arrived at the church. "I made it" they thought. One stayed behind and helped the man, and thus was "late" to his "final destination." When he arrived, the leader of the group pronounced: "only one of you won the challenge." I am sure you can guess which one. It's hard to learn, but the Lord has/is teaching me: aim for heaven, but don't trample over the earth to get there. The process matters just as much as the destination. Every breath is a gift.

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  4. A Dream has been laid before us in the form of a Vision Statement.

    We must ask ourselves, "Is the Dream worthy of Our Aspirations and are we willing to play a part in making it a reality?"

    If our answer is YES.

    Then we should strive to fulfill the 2nd Challenge: Learn to believe in our vision enough to see through today’s pain, obstacles, and the seemingly insurmountable amount of work that lies in front of us - and find the faith that will make it a reality.

    That's hard work, however, if we share the vision it is deserving of our energies.

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    Replies
    1. No doubt Stan - we should first validate whether the vision is sound before giving it our effort, and then we should ensure it's our very best effort.

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