Years ago, I saw a painting of Simeon by Ron DiCianni, an artist who created biblical scenes on canvas. The image is one of an old man wearing robe with the cowl pulled over his head. He is lifting up a newborn with tears in his as though he was saying something mid-sentence when the artist caught the image of him. Simeon, if you will remember, was the prophet who was a “righteous and devout” man whom the Holy Spirit rested on, living in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus birth. In the story in Luke 2, Simeon was promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
This seemed like more than a promise to Simeon, it was his vision. According to the Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas, a vision is your dream. It’s what you believe is the ideal condition; that is, how things would look if the things that are important to you were completely, perfectly addressed. For Simeon, that vision was a world where the Messiah, the one anointed by God to deliver Israel, had come to Jerusalem to lead the Jewish people into a new age.
Simeon is led by the Holy Spirit on a particular day to the Temple, a day which happens to be the day that Jesus is being brought to the Temple to be dedicated as the firstborn son of his family. As Simeon lays eyes on Jesus, his promise, his vision, comes to be. That moment, Simeon takes the child in his arms and weeps for joy declaring to God,
Sovereign Lord now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!
Simeon’s vision was alive, in front of him. The one promised was delivered.
We often talk about vision in church, but do we really have one? Often, what I have heard from people is not a vision of what could be but a visit to a moment they would like to return to and savor again. While you might be able to remember, you can’t relive, can’t go back in time and reassemble the pieces of what was. I have also heard people talk about mimicking the vision of other churches and ministries. They see their success and want to try to duplicate it, as if they could recreate all the moments that led up that point in time where things ‘took off’.
The vision that God has for our church is our vision alone. The people that make up this congregation with its experiences and gifts is specific to this congregation. Our vision is one that speaks to that as well as the people who are not here yet. In the same way that Jesus prepared his disciples to minister for those who were not yet disciples, we are building a congregation for those who have not yet come to be a part of it. If we build it around the wrong vision, the wrong focus, they will have to go elsewhere.
What is your vision for the church? How does it speak to those who are not yet here or for that matter, not yet born? How do you shape a vision that speaks beyond what you want to what you and those who are not here yet need?