Since at least the Enlightenment, Western culture has been dominated by a world view based in reason, empirical evidence, and the scientific method. That world view has brought tremendous material advance for many people and potential material gains for many more. Deserts have been turned into gardens, the food supply vastly increased, diseases have been subdued and overall life expectancy extended to the frontiers of our physical makeup. I was trained into that community, even if as merely a social scientist. My colleagues in the physical sciences would remind me on occasion that what they did was the real, hard science. Regardless, I shared with them a basic set of premises that included the essential idea “seeing is believing.” We have perhaps all been trained in that same elementary scientific principle that what is is what can be observed in some way. We are unlikely to be shocked when someone asks to “see the evidence” or says “show me the data.” The basic idea is simple. Seeing precedes believing, with the often unstated assumption that seeing is a neutral act. A quick review in your mind of Jesus’ ministry may remind you that folks in his day also asked for evidence. “Give us a sign” is the way they may have put the question.
There is, however, another approach. Some call it post-modern in order to say that it has superseded, or comes after, the modern scientific worldview that came before. But what is post-modern is actually something that existed in the early church. In the writings of St Anslem of Canterbury from the 11th century AD we find the notion of “fides quaerens intellectum” meaning “faith seeking understanding” and much before him in the 5th century writings of St Augustine of Hippo “crede, ut intelligas” meaning “believe so that you may understand.” In either case, the idea is that believing, a reasoned faith commitment, precedes and guides understanding. In contrast to modernism, the seeing and what is seen, and the reality that comes into being depends on a vision shaped by faith and faith commitments. Stated simply, “believing is seeing” and what you will come to see depends on the vision that you in faith believe you are called to create. This is no mere wishful thinking, but rather calls for actions that are believed helpful for bringing that vision into reality.
I am pleased that your vestry has crafted a vision statement for Good Shepherd. It is a statement of faith in the possibility that with God’s help we can and should make the world a better place and realize something of heaven on Earth. It is a statement that captures the faith and values of this parish and dares dream of a brighter future for all people who are drawn to, participate in, and are sent our from this shining city on a hill. This vision for Good Shepherd works alongside our Strategic Plan goals and gives that plan a foundational statement. You will see that vision statement appearing soon in different places as an encouragement and reminder. God willing, we will boldly engage the world, sharing our many blessings, and in that create heaven on Earth one person at a time. This is a high and lofty vision. Imagine what would happen if we reached it.
Grace and peace and vision be with you,