As George H.W. Bush was preparing to run for President in 1988, he was encouraged to spend some time in reflection to fit his political ideas into a comprehensive strategy, something Bush somewhat dismissively called “the vision thing.” Few summaries of the late president’s life will fail to mention this, along with his “read my lips” speech, as metonyms that summarize his presidency.
My thoughts turned to “the vision thing” recently because of a personal matter. I have been dealing with cataracts in my eyes for several years now. When I went for my annual eye checkup in April, I struggled to read the top line of the eye chart, which I think was the 20/50 line. Up to that point I had been getting by with contact lenses, but a perfect storm of events had me out of them for several months. I broke one of my lenses last summer, and when I went to my ophthalmologist to get a replacement found that the office had closed permanently. Unable to get a copy of my prescription, I waited until I could have my next annual checkup to address what to do next. My new ophthalmologist determined that it was time for cataract surgery.
I had the first procedure done on my right eye on June 10 and the left eye done on June 24. It is remarkable how much brighter and clearer things appear now. This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.” The Message translates this as, “We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.”
My own “vision thing” got me thinking about the prominence of words like vision and sight in our faith. One of my favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision.” It was one of the hymns Sharon and I used during our wedding (yes, we had congregation hymns for that service) and for my ordination and subsequent installations. One tradition is that this hymn dates back to the 8th century in Ireland, written by someone who later experienced blindness in life, and translated by Eleanor Hull in 1912. Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art - thou my best thought, by day or by night; waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
At the June Presbytery meeting last week, there were two reports which related to vision. One was the report of Council, which included the final report on our strategic planning process, including a new vision and mission statements:
The vision of Central Florida Presbytery is to be a Spirit-led network of PC(USA) congregations proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
The mission of Central Florida Presbytery is to connect, equip and support its members, faith communities, and ministries in worship, discipleship, service, and fellowship.
The second is the report of the Church Development Committee, which introduced the Vital Congregations program of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Vital Congregations is a two-year program with the purpose “to work alongside leaders of existing congregations continually assessing, discerning and living into faithful actions that increase vitality through intentional spiritual practices that take them deeper into following Jesus Christ, so that their own lives are changed, congregations are transformed and the mission of God spreads throughout particular communities and the world.” Vital Congregations is for any congregation wishing to sharpen its vision. Central Florida Presbytery is looking to enroll up to 15 congregations in the program for the next wave, which begins in 2020. If you are interested in learning more about this program, see the CDC Report in the presbytery packet, visit the web site listed above, or contact Mike Foley or Dan Williams.
We walk by faith, not by sight! (2 Corinthians 5:7)