“Vision.” It’s quite a word. It has all sorts of power and mystery wrapped up into it. It’s a word of openings, clarity, direction , prophecy…or of simply being able to put one foot in front of another without a guide, and even that is a profound thing.

Yes, “vision” has three meanings. The first is physical sight. Vision is what enables us to see the world around us: where to drive the car, how to read the paper, how to recognize the faces of those I love. I have eyeballs and cornea and retina and optic nerves and a brain that works…I can see. When my vision isn’t perfect, I can get glasses or contacts so that I can see better. I can also use microscopes or telescopes to expand my vision, to see things that are too small or too far away for the human eye to see. Eyes have vision; our bodies follow.

“Vision” also carries the meaning of a long-range plan, a hope or a direction. A vision guides into the future. A President has a vision for a the well-being of a country. A CEO has a vision for the growth of a corporation. A college president has a vision for an educational institution. Leaders have vision; the rest of us respond.

Finally, “vision” has the mystical connotation of a dream, often a holy message sent by God to provide insight or guidance. I am most familiar with the visions of Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Jacob’s ladder to heaven. Ezekiel’s dry bones. John the Seer’s revelation of God’s reign with the Lamb. Peter’s tablecloth with ‘unclean’ animals. And then this Sunday’s reading from Acts 16: Paul’s vision of a Macedonian man begging him to come from the middle east and tell him the good news.

Visions still happen, I suspect. Not the drug-induced or mentally imbalanced triggered hallucinations, but those efforts of a God to use all means possible to communicate with humans whose attention is hard to get. I have no strong grounds for saying this, although the history of Christianity is sprinkled with such showings. The few who receive these visions are often reluctant to presume they understand, and are at times even more hesitant to discuss them. The visions, however, serve to open eyes to God’s activity around us, to encourage one to follow faithfully, to help a disciple pay attention.

So it was with Paul the apostle in Acts 16:9-15. He had a vision one night of a Macedonian man (present-day Greece) begging for someone to come and bring the good news of Christ. The amazing thing to me is that Paul didn’t hem-haw about if this were simply a dream caused by indigestion. No, he knew that the vision was God’s vision (2nd meaning) for the spread of the gospel. So did his companions, Luke and others. No doubt the vision fit with what they had been praying about, with the scriptures they had been reading, with their understanding of mission.

Nevertheless that vision granted to a faithful heart was the spark that sent Paul and company down to the boat docks in the morning to find passage on a ship going west. Maybe God did not want to take any chances that their prayer meeting, the discussions, or the apostles’ long-range planning went on too long. Something slightly but significantly new was about to happen and God didn’t want them to miss the boat: the gospel was about to be told in Europe for the first time. The first European converts would be baptized in a fortnight’s time. The story is getting closer to home for some of us, isn’t it?

So what does “vision” have to do with St. Paul Lutheran? Most of us have eyes that can see, at least a little, even if not good enough to drive. We have vision according to meaning #1. Some of us have long-range plans, meaning #2, for what we would like to see happen at St.Paul. It is unimportant that no one of us is likely to have the kind of vision/revelation/dream Paul received that night.

Yet, even if God sends no one a vision (#3) like God did for Paul, does God still have a vision (#2) for St. Paul Lutheran in New Cumberland? That’s the real question for us. How do we know what’s on God’s heart? That’s all visions are: a picture of God’s heart and intentions that God shares with us. We don’t want to “miss the boat”? Will we know what direction to go? Will we know who is longing to hear the the gospel? Is it two blocks over? On the other side of the river? In the work station next to us? How will we get there with the good news?

Obviously, this discussion isn’t over yet.


  1. A good defintion of the word, 3 good definitions. Where we all be without vision or “A” vision.
    #1- our Founding Fathers created our great country on a “Vision”. A country with Christian / Judeo values where we can FREELY & PUBLICLY WORSHIP, something most take for granted.
    #2- without vision, we would not have had all the awesome inventions which we all enjoy on a day to day basis, making our lives easier to live.

    As the Pastor discussess above, hmm, what is our Vision? In this hustle bustle hurry hurry world of ours….When & How do we get visions. Perhaps we need to MAKE THE TIME…to Pray to Him, to Talk to him, to Listen to him. Take the time, make the time… uh oh, here is another thing…… it might mean “CHANGE”. Are we willing to make a change?

    Don’t visions mean change?