Every once in a while I find a quote raising to the surface of my mind. Not often, to be sure. My mind does not often retain quotes. But it has a few that can come to me unbidden, but at the right time. Almost a year ago it was:
A vision without a task is but a dream,
a task without a vision is drudgery,
a vision with a task is the hope of the world.
Inscription on a church in Sussex, England, 1730
I have known this quote for years. And since it drifted into awareness I have been living with it and seeing where in my life and in the church's life there are dreams and drudgery. I have been trying to limit both my dreams and drudgery. Dreams have led to disappointment. Drudgery has led to defeat. How long can anyone hold one dream or how many dreams can be unrealized before the dreamer no longer wants to sleep, perchance to dream? How long can a worker do drudgery before they are only a drudge?
Yes, I do need my vacation that is now two days away. But it is not just me. Parts of the church need one too. Individuals and groups have kept doing things that once were connected to a purpose. The reason for doing something was once known and appreciated, but that knowledge (or appreciation) is gone. If someone wants to do it – great- and anyway they want to do it is fine because it really does not matter enough to discuss the best way to do it. There is no way to adjudicate what is good, better, or best. And so we find a fast and easy way to do it.
Someone might ask “Why are we doing this?” if it becomes frustrating or inconvenient. But an answer is not really looked for. And we just get the task over with.
And no one really wants to have a dream because it will just mean that someone will have to do the work to turn dream into a vision. Since we are all shackled to drudgery, using time and energy to risk a dream that might bring disappointment is more than we will do. Especially since we know how hard it is to get others to add 'one more thing!'. This is why the July 3rd parade float and the Auction were so important this year. We did them!
To be honest, one of the best ways to find out the reason to do something is to stop doing it. But, despite our faith claims, we are afraid to let anything we do to die. What if we do not light any candles for worship? Can worship happen in fellowship hall or parking lot? If the steeple fell down, why would we put it back up? Why not try Sunday School before worship? Really, why do we think it would be bad if we stopped doing everything that seems like drudgery? The Share Fair came back!
History can only tell use why someone else thought it was important. We still have to own their reason or our own reason. It is simply not life giving to do something for someone else's agenda. Additionally, a historical reason is usually a construct of what was history for them and their own values. That is, at best history can only tell us why other's thought we should do something, not why we might want to. “Want” has life giving power, not “should”.
Theologically it also has to be said that part of our problem is we are trying to give meaning to things our self. That is, we are not letting God be the giver of meaning and value. We want to decide (for our selves) instead of discerning God's vision. And in some cases, God cares less than we do about what we do and how we do it. But we still assign the tasks to others without connection to God's vision.
I am right now bombarded with countless biblical descriptions of what our 'task' is. Ambassador, witness, planter, sower, sign, cross carrier, liberator, giver of food, home, shelter, clothing, release, comfort, hospitality, challenge. These tasks when combined with God's vision of justice, peace, and a servant's life really is the hope of the world. I want the tasks I am doing to be working towards God's vision. I want my church to see God's vision and do the tasks that create peace and justice. I want the tasks my church does to be driven by a vision of the still speaking God's inclusive love and extravagant welcome. I want my tasks to do more than just maintain what is, but fulfill the prayer 'thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'.
That's my newest vision. Tasks that I see linked are: asking, “Why?”, discerning an answer, doing less but with joy and life, prayer, study, worship, to know God, see what God sees, and willing to let things die if they are not bringing hope to the world.
God's vision with our task is the hope of the world.