Vision and Values – Introduction, & Value 1: Loving

Vision and Values of ‘All Saints’

Loving (1 John 4: 7-12 and Matthew 22: 36-40)

Earlier this year the PCC spent some time thinking about, praying and discussing what our Vision and Values should be here at All Saints.  Then at our APCM meeting in April we shared them with everyone. 

And so now as we head into Autumn we’re going to spend some time focussing on our Vision and Values and how they shape and form us as God’s people in this community.

Let’s start by thinking a bit about Vision….

So, to get us started here are some vision statements from leading world-wide companies/organisations.

Let’s have a look at a few and see if you can guess who they belong to. 

  1. Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete.  (Nike)
  2. To save the world from mediocre coffee…  (Costa Coffee)
  3. Inspire the world.  Create the future (Samsung)
  4. To be the world’s best, quick service restaurant experience.  Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.  (McDonalds)
  5. A just world without poverty (Oxfam)

Five quite different Vision statements… but there are several characteristics that they share.

Firstly, Vision is about the future. 

Secondly, Vision is all about having a clear picture, a picture in your mind’s eye of the way things could or should be in the days ahead. 

But Vision isn’t just a vague hope or wish or dream, rather Vision carries with it a sense of deep conviction that this must be accomplished. There is a convicting element that propels, enlivens, inspires and energizes so that the picture isn’t just a passive interest, but becomes action and accomplishment.

So, Vision shapes, it influences, it motivates, it directs and gives purpose.

Now keeping all that on the back burner, it is also worth noting that Vision is found in the Bible time and time again.   

I believe our God is a God of vision.

God called Abraham the Father of many nations long before his wife ever had her first child.

God spoke to Moses and promised deliverance for his people – even though they looked trapped in oppression and slavery. 

God saw a fresh start and new beginnings for Ruth and Naomi when they thought all had ended.

God saw a King, a leader in a young shepherd boy named David!

God saw the mother of Jesus the Messiah in a young virgin girl.

Time and time again God had a picture – a vision… and it wasn’t fanciful, but step by step that Vision became a reality.   

It shaped individuals, communities and nations. 

God’s Vision has always been about freedom, healing, and relationship with a loving heavenly Father. 

As a PCC we also had in our minds the stories Jesus told of God’s kingdom, stories of growth, mustard seeds becoming towering trees, stories of invitation and welcome, stories of change, transformation and healing, stories of acceptance and love.

And so, with all of this in our hearts and minds the PCC agreed this Vision Statement. 

Our Vision is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead.

And to build on that, we came up with three things that we want to be as God’s people:

KNOW God – that after all is the very heart of the Christian faith….  a people who know God, not just a head knowledge about God, not just facts, rather an active relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A relationship of worship and trust, not just at church, but daily in every part of our lives.

Then we want to be a people who GROW in our faith and discipleship through prayer, study and trust in God.  So we don’t want to be a people who are stuck in the past, rather we want to be a people who day by day are following after Christ… to be a people who are looking to become more like Jesus in our thoughts, our actions, our relationships with others, and this will happen as we pray, as we study God’s word, as we trust daily in God.

And then very importantly we want to be a people who SHOW God’s love by serving our community…in actions and compassion, but crucially in sharing the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit.  We have the most amazing news ever – and it changes lives, brings transformation and healing….and so we want to talk about Jesus like it really matters.

And these three go together, and in a sense feed each other.  The more we KNOW God, the more we want to GROW, and as we GROW the more we want to SHOW and share that love with others.  And in turn the more we see lives changed and transformed, the more we want to KNOW God…and GROW and so we continue.

  • It is this Vision that we’re now aiming for, working towards… It motivates, directs and inspires our decisions, our actions, our thoughts, and our prayers. 
  • It’s a Vision with a desire to help every person, whether young or old, new to faith or been around for ever, an occasional visitor or regular attender, to help each and every person encounter God.
  • It is this Vision that forms who we are… our actions, our attitudes, our relationships.
  • This Vision shapes our culture…our ethos… it is who and what we are, both as individuals and as a community.

And so, to guide us, to help form our understanding we identified eight values which we want to embrace and live out as God’s people in this place.

And top of the list was LOVE.

In all that we are and do, we will seek to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

It is centred on two passages from scripture, we’ve we heard earlier, and now we turn our attention to briefly.

Our passage from Matthew’s gospel recounts a conversation Jesus had with an individual who was trying to catch him out.  The individual wanted to know what part of the law mattered most. 

At that time, the Pharisees prided themselves on meticulous observance of the Law.  They not only knew the Ten Commandments, but they paid rigorous attention to all the laws in the books of Moses–613 laws. 

They tried to reason out the implications of the laws, and to make sure that they avoided even the possibility of violating any of them.

But the Pharisees had lost their way….

Jesus makes clear that the very heart of the matter is loving God – every inch, so to speak, our hearts, our minds, our wills, our attitudes, complete and utter full devotion.  This says Jesus is the heartbeat of all the commandments.   

Note that it is the first commandment, but not the only one.  Jesus follows it with a second commandment to love our neighbour as yourself.  Loving God empowers us to love other people.  To see them in the right frame of mind.

Jesus loved us perfectly and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).  He saved us when none of us could save ourselves (Romans 5:6-10).  And now, when we put our trust in him, we are united to him, and we are transformed so that we can imitate the pattern of his love: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 RSV). 

Through Jesus Christ we receive not only understanding of God’s will, but power and motivation to serve Him.  In receiving His love, we can, in turn, love others.

Our second passage taken from John’s letter, it reminds us that “God is love.”

Love is not just something God does, rather it is what He is, at the deepest level.

God is a Trinity of relationships and love is the very heart of the universe. 

There is nothing deeper than love. Love has eternally existed and the whole world was created out of God’s eternal love. God is the author of love and because He is love, all real love involves His very being.

So, when we have a share in this love, it is a sign that we are born of Him, belong to him in our very nature as His children.  As we love, we know Him who is love.  We are created for relationship, as He is relationship.  We are created to know ourselves in loving relationships with God and each other.

John says in v. 9 that God’s love is made manifest among us in the sending of His only Son into the world “so that we might live through him.” We learn or see this love that is God’s most clearly in the sending and coming of Jesus, His uniting Himself to our fallen nature to heal us from the inside out and give us a share in the very life He has with the Father.

Jesus is the “expiation for our sins” (v.10). By His life, death, and resurrection, He becomes the one who removes us from sin and heals and straightens out all that is broken in our lives. Now we live through Him, live in His life and receive His love.

So, in Jesus we see what true love is: love breaks down barriers, overcomes obstacles to come to the beloved. This love endures rejection and misunderstanding to bring about reconciliation, healing, peace, and life. In Christ, we see God’s great commitment to love us to perfection, to do all that is necessary to give us the fullness of love He already knows in His triune self. True love loves to perfection and perfects all that it loves. True love will not, in the end, settle for anything less than the perfection of the beloved. He accepts us where we are only to take us to where He is: the perfection of love.

So how do we love one another? Some days, if we are honest with ourselves, this can be hard to do even with those who are closest to us – husbands, wives, children, parents.   

Do we simply grit our teeth and try harder? Is it just a matter of bending our wills?

I don’t think so.

Notice John addresses his readers twice as “beloved.”

Who are we? We are the ones who are loved by God. In verse 10 John says, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us …”

Love does not start with us. God has always been love.  He created us in love, and He sent His only son to redeem us and make us sharers in the great love of the universe that has always existed. Our love grows as we receive this love from Him, as we open our arms and hearts and let Him love us.

As we turn to God and receive again the good news of His passionate love, then we abide in His love and His love is perfected in us.   

God will enable us to grow in our ability to love as we act out of our faith in Him and in this process, He will perfect His love in us – we will indeed know a day where we live in love, moment by moment.

In the weeks ahead, we will return to our Vision and consider the other values. 

So today, can I encourage us all, to turn to God again,

to receive his love poured out for us in Jesus,

to welcome him into our hearts afresh and to ask Him for his help, 

– that we might love Him with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

As we live in this way, with this value central to all we do….

It will help us to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead. It will help us be a people who KNOW God, GROW deeper in Him and Show His love and truth to others.  Amen.