Vision Sunday 2023
Reading: Matthew 13:24-35
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Vision Sunday 2023 is an important day in our church year – a time where we cast a Vision of where God is leading us as a church for the next 12 months. Our pastor’s – Phil and Kevin – remind us again the core aspects of our Vision which we discerned last year as well as sharing some idea and planning that is in place for 2023. We hope to stir within us a passion and energy to work with God to bring this vision to life in 2023!
Click for Vision Sunday Documentation
Handouts and Extra Material.
Bible Study Material
Today is Vision Sunday – a day where we talk about our churches values and goals and how they might shape what we do over the next 12 months. A bit like a rudder on a boat, Vision Sunday sets the direction in which we are heading in for 2023. Vision Sunday help us to keep moving forward.
But before we get to that, I wanted to link Vision Sunday into what we have been doing with the Narrative Lectionary as we move through the gospel of Matthew – and in the way that God seems to weave things together, it seems to be the perfect time in our Matthew journey to talk about Vision and Mission.
A few times already on our Matthew journey, I have spoken about the way that Matthew structures his gospel – that he has five sections (or discourses) where he gives us the story of what Jesus has been doing followed by a block of teaching that Jesus gave. He does this five times and the action and teaching are related in broad themes.
For example, we saw in the first discourse that Jesus calls his disciples to follow him and then in the teaching (the Sermon on the Mount) Jesus gives us an ethical framework to live out as followers of Jesus.
Here are the broad themes for all five of the discourses:
- Discourse 1 – (Matt 4-7) Ethical Framework for living
- Follow me / Sermon on the Mount
- Discourse 2 – (Matt 8-10) Missionary Instructions
- Discourse 3 – (Matt 11-13) Kingdom Parables
- The kingdom of God is like…
- Discourse 4 – (Matt 14-20) Community Instructions
- Some commentary on the church
- How to relate to each other as people of the kingdom and the wider community
- Discourse 5 – (Matt 21-25) Eschatology / End times
- What is important / judgement
- How to be prepared
Or summarizing the five discourses in my words:
- Jesus calls us to follow him and his example for ethical living
- Jesus calls us to participate in the mission of God to establish God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven
- Jesus helps us to understand what the kingdom of God is like
- Jesus calls us to relate to each other as people of the kingdom
- Jesus paints the bigger picture of the last days, what is most important and our own relationship with God
You will see as we journey with Matthew in the lead up to Easter, that we will be covering discourses 2,3 and 4 about being part of the mission, understanding the kingdom and how we live together as people of the kingdom … which is the core of much of what our Vision as a church is about. I just love how our journey with Matthew and our Vision for 2023 will weave together so beautifully.
I will come back to our Bible reading from Matthew 13, but Vision Sunday is a day where we as a individuals and as a church reflect on God’s calling in our lives and how we go about being faithful to that call or bringing God’s Vision to life here at TUC in 2023.
So for the middle part of this sermon, Kevin and I are going to remind you of God’s vision for TUC that we discern during our mission planning process in the second half of last year and share some of our insights of how this might be brought to life over the next 12 months.
If you remember, in August and September last year, we had some church wide meetings to look at our Vision. These gathering used some of the ideas and dreams that Church Council and other key groups had been working through and together we came up with five key areas that we felt God was calling us as a church to invest extra resources and energy into over the next 3 or so years. Not to say that other areas are not important too, just that we felt that God was calling us to invest extra into these key mission areas.
Can you remember our 5 Vision focus areas?
- Faith and Discipleship
- Growing Young
- Pastoral Care & Connections
- Small Groups & Support
- Being Better Neighbours / Community Connections
In our Gifts of God brochure we explained these five areas as well as some of the broad ideas that we had to bring this vision to life, and in the next 10 mins or so, Kevin and I would like to share what this might mean for us particularly in 2023
Faith & Discipleship – Helping people to know Jesus and spiritually grow in their faith
The core of our Vision has always and will always be Faith and Discipleship – to have Jesus and our faith at the centre of all that we do. We felt that God is calling us in all our groups and activities to help people to meet and know Jesus and to grow in their faith and discipleship.
We will be continuing to explore how we can refresh our worship services so that they can be engaging, inclusive, full of participation but above all, spiritually helpful to you and to those who might join us this year.
One of the key ways we are going to invest in faith and discipleship has an overlap connected with Small groups, so I might introduce that key area and work through them together … is that ok?
Small Groups – Running and Resourcing Small Group/Home Support Groups.
Small Groups are a proven practice to deliver spiritual growth and pastoral care in the Church. Since the Gifts of God last year we have had a team looking at the small groups at TUC and how we might be able to do them better (I even did some study leave in January on this topic) and this is what we found:
Different people are looking for different things in a small group or study group. Some people are looking for a place to study God’s word together with other people whereas other are looking for a place where they can meet with others for support, friendship and maybe to talk about life or issues.
Some of our TUC small groups last year were struggling because the traditional model of Bible Study was not working -not many people were turning up.
While I will always agree that it is important to have the opportunity to have the classic Bible Study experience, my study leave research showed that across the world people in this post-lockdown era are most needing or longing for connection – the opportunity to be with other people for conversation and support. This was summed up by a comment of a TUC member who said, “After a long day at work, I am just too tired to attend a bible study – but if we were just having a cup of tea and a chat … I’d love to come to that.” Can you see what they were saying.
So, our small group team wants to suggest something a little radical for the first half of 2023. We want to suggest that in the lead up to Easter and maybe beyond that all our existing small groups take a break from studying the bible and instead meet maybe once a month just for connection and support – maybe over a meal or a cuppa. We just want you to meet … invite anyone who is not part of a small group … and enjoy just being together.
We are so committed to this idea of getting together for connection that we are also encouraging the resumption of the TUC women’s group (7C’s) or whatever they wish to call themselves – and we are starting a men’s gathering as well (and a TUC men’s whatapps group too … wanna be part of it?)
But what about our commitment to Faith and Discipleship. How do we encourage bible study if we for the next 6 months only focus on connections.
Well, some groups will continue to do bible study – such as the Ponders, and the SBY groups. But we will offer an additional group during lent which is just for Bible Study (like we did last year for lent). This group will meet at the church each fortnight during lent – Wed 1st, 15th and 29th March) – and will be unashamedly focused on studying some great passages in Matthew. If you are a person who is looking for that group study experience – here is your opportunity. If you are looking for connection – that is what the rest of the small groups will be focused on.
But my study leave research also showed that people are taking a more individual approach to Spiritual Growth – they are finding their own books to read, YouTubes to watch, podcasts to listen to or articles or studies to make them think. We want to encourage that, so we are launching in the next few weeks a new page on our website called GrowthLinks where we will place some great suggestions of things that you might like to read, listen to or watch to help your spiritual growth too.
Can you see how these two foci areas of faith and discipleship and spiritual growth are coming together in 2023. I am excited to see what God might do as we focus on connection and intentional study and growth.
I am going to hand over to Kevin to share about our other three Vision areas of Growing Young, Pastoral Care and Being Better Neighbours.
Kevin to Share
Thanks Kevin. It is so exciting to see how God is stirring people and groups within our church to move forward God’s mission. And we having covered other things like being a light house church (which there are continuing to build our relationships with our sister churches and might be able to share soon on some positive ways forward).
Just to finish with, I wanted to jump back to our Bible reading for this morning from Matthew 13. Here Jesus gives us three parables in this section about mission and the kingdom of God.
First he encourages us to not get stressed about the weeds and the wheat growing together. There are many ways to understand this, but today on Vision Sunday I want to encourage us to not get too stressed about whether and idea is good or not – but if we feel that God is calling us to give it a try, then lets give it a go. We will be able to assess by its fruit of whether it is a viable idea and either continue to invest in it or gracefully put it up and make room for something else.
And it doesn’t matter if the idea is small because with God’s help it might be like a mustard seed that can grow into something that makes a huge difference for the kingdom.
Our challenge is to respond to God’s call to participate in the mission. We might think that we are as useful as a lump of flour, but the kingdom of God is like yeast in the flour – and it is when we align our vision with God’s vision that we see change, see things rising and see that God’s kingdom is indeed being established here on earth as in Heaven.