The theme of our Advent worship series this year is We Have Gifts to Open, and this week we’ll open the first of these gifts: “The Gift of Vision.” Our scripture reading from Isaiah shows us that this idea of vision is really more about transformation — transforming something we have into something new.
With this idea of vision, the raw materials are exactly the same; they’re just being repurposed into something else. Now, to be clear, this is not a matter of destroying or replacing something we have, but rather of giving it new purpose — new life. And the best thing about this gift of vision is that it can be used again and again. Unlike some gifts you’ll receive this holiday season, it will never expire, go out of style, or become less useful. It’s never too late to open the gift of vision for what can be.
Having this kind of vision — of the possibilities of transformation and seeing something in a completely new way — can open our eyes to a new beginning and a second chance. Mark Burrows told a story in one of his children’s sermons of the World War II engineer who looked at an ordinary spring and saw a new toy; that spring became the first Slinky.
Another story in the news not too long ago was about Mark McPherson, an attorney in Dallas whose law specialty had to do with civil engineering and city infrastructure. He had a new vision of how his legal skills, expertise, and gifts could be put to work instead on helping a community without a clean water supply get the water they so desperately needed.
With Mark McPherson’s gift of vision, he was able to repurpose his legal expertise to help Sandbranch Community in Dallas County obtain water and sewer for the first time in 56 years. Up until then they had been using hand pumps and dealing with contaminated water, and I doubt if any of them believed it could be different. So, McPherson opened his gift of vision to transform this situation. He re-purposed his own abilities in such a way that he was able to make a huge difference in the day-to-day lives of those who lived in that community.
The gift of vision — a vision for what can be — is something we all have. It’s just waiting to be opened. But it takes courage. And it takes commitment to this process of transformation. In Isaiah’s vision for his people, we see an emphasis on the word “will.” In fact, that word is used nine times in this passage. The word, “will,” as in what will happen, ties directly back to vision — the vision for a better future.
What we need to remember about the gift of vision is that it most often brings about something far beyond what we might imagine, and sometimes things that are completely counter to what we might imagine. In this light, God is able to use whatever webring and whatever we have to offer, and then to give us a different vision of how we can use our gifts, just as Mark McPherson did, to create something new from what existed before.
I look forward to opening the gift of vision with you this Sunday during worship — and to explore how each of us can learn to use this gift to transform something we have into something new.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
This is what Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain, to the house of Jacob’s God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God’s paths.” Instruction will come from Zion; the Lord’s word from Jerusalem. God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation, they will no longer learn how to make war. Come, house of Jacob, let’s walk by the Lord’s light.