Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sermon Notes March 22, 2009

Using the text from Numbers 21:4-9 we looked at stumbling blocks to Vision, and what this model teaches us about facing those stumbling blocks.

I look at this through the lens of having a Vision before the community. God's Vision for the Israelites was to get them out of Egypt into the promised land. 

Our goal at Ojai UMC is to leave the declining church behind, and enter into God's promised Kingdom. Our Egypt is rather loosely defined, and as yet the promised land is without words to define the final Vision. Seems a little more work is in order next week.

When the people left Egypt they thought they would get a chance to run right into the promised land, safe from Pharaoh. Instead, they went wandering in the desert. They ate quail and manna that God provideed, but after a time they began to grumble about that. Gamey, they said. Dry and pastey they said. 

You know Moses had had enough of them, and he didn't know what to do. They even got angry with him, and gossipped and poormouthed Moses. "Why can't he figure out where we are going?";  "Does he even have a license to lead?"; "Someone said he talks to God, are they certain?"

I find it interesting that the way the scriptures read, God sent snakes into their midst. Okay, blame it on God. But what I found more interesting was that God didn't order the snakes to bite the people of Israel. I think the snakes came up with that idea on their own, using their freewill.

This was right after Moses had tried to get through Edom, and been refused by the king. So they now had to go around Edom, the long way, to get to the promised land. No wonder the people were cranky and upset. We are going to have to do some of the long-way-around work too in effecting our future Vision. I am sure many of you know the old adage that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; and its corrollary - the longest distance between two points is a committee.

The challenge came as the people came once again to Moses to do something about the snakes. Moses saw that this was not going to work if he had to deal with all the little snake bites and scares in the Israelite community of almost 400,000. He needed to get them to do the work directly. 

Just so you know, as we move forward with the Vision, we are going to work on connecting people directly with the mission areas they are to serve, and the people that they relate to in order to convey the message of the Gospel.

The real lesson in our text this morning is that Moses made the people deal directly with their problems. As a church, we are going to have to face our sins individually, raising complaints against one another directly. If we have a corporate problem, we are not going to be able to run from them, as we might have before, but instead we will have to face the challenge head on.

I tell these stories as a precursor to naming a Vision because I want you to know that stumbling blocks will occur on the road to achievement. That God is greater, and that the best way through is to confront those issues head on, and work through them to keep moving.


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