What is our great vision?

October 17, 2011

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The words of
Proverbs 29:18--"where there is no vision, the people perish" (KJV)--seem
appropriate for reflections on Moses's vision of the promised land. Moses was
guided by a long-term vision, beginning with his youthful encounter with God in
the form of a burning bush. He held the vision of liberation and hope for the
Israelites despite the challenges of Egyptian military power and a journey
through the wilderness. Moses's vision was unwavering, and it enabled him to
work out the details of leadership and nation-building with courage, compassion
and flexibility.

I can't help but
think about the current American political situation as I ponder Moses's
visionary leadership. During the debt-ceiling fight, polarization,
inflexibility and acrimony characterized the political debate. Consensus was
seen as a sign of weakness. Moreover, decisions are being made both in
government and business based on short-term gain rather than long-term
sustainability and growth. In this context, I recently heard a political
commentator ask the question, "Can America do great things anymore?"

Although
visionary thinking and spirituality arise in the context of our present
situation, their impact reaches far beyond our lifetimes. We dream and plan for
futures we will not experience. Our vision compels us to expect excellence and
greatness from ourselves as our gift to the future. In the life of the church,
if our vision is only for institutional or congregational survival, we will
surely perish. In the life of the nation, if the highest thing we can aspire to
is lower taxes or a balanced budget, the nation will fall into decline.

Like Moses,
Martin Luther King had a dream: a vision of the beloved community. He
recognized that he might not live long enough to see his dream realized. But he
pressed on, faithfully planting seeds for future generations. Today, an African
American is president of the United States.

What is our
great vision? What do we dream of that will take longer than our own lives to
achieve? What takes us beyond self-interest to embrace the well-being of the
whole earth and the generations that will succeed us?