Going Where God is Calling: “New Horizon”

November 22, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Matt Wilcox Series: Going Where God is Calling - Stewardship 2021

Topic: God's Vision Scripture: Habakkuk 2:2–2:3, Revelation 21:1–21:7


 Is there anything more mesmerizing than a truly breathtaking sunrise or sunset? It’s so funny. We literally have a sunrise and a sunset every day. It’s one of the few things we can count on, even in odd seasons such as right now. And yet, we can go days without noticing this remarkably beautiful gift. Every now and then, though, we look to the horizon and we are just awestruck. This past week we had one such sunset. I noticed it while I was driving and had to forcibly keep my eyes on the road. Thankfully, several folks captured it on camera and shared those pictures on social media.

For me, there’s just something both assuring and exhilarating about seeing that incredible display of God’s creation out on the distant horizon. But imagine with me for a moment if that everyday blessing was taken away from you. This past Wednesday, the sunset in Utqiagvik (UT-KEY-AG-VIK), Alaska, and will not rise again until January 23rd. That is 66 days of darkness. No sunrise, no sunset. This small town, the northernmost in all of the United States, will endure this polar night and the next time they see a sunrise they will see a new year on their calendars. I can only imagine what it will be like that early morning in January for those residents. It must be the oddest mixture of relief and anticipation to stand there and to wait for the sun to rise on a New Horizon.

This morning is our final Sunday for this message series and our stewardship campaign called Going Where God is Calling. We’ve spent the last few weeks trying to discover together what our journey forward looks like. An element of that journey is tied to our identity as a church and what that means for us to be a neighbor, a place of sanctuary, a source of hope, a means for help. An element of this journey is also focused on the spaces we are feeling called to. Spaces of solidarity and passion as we stand against systemic sorrows in our world like prejudice and poverty. Spaces of warmth and friendship where we can finally feel known and valued. Spaces of worship and growth where we encounter an unexpected transcendence or a previously unseen inspiration. All of this, all of the identity markers and relationships and experiences, all of it is a part of this journey we are on together as a church to faithfully be Going Where God is Calling. And that journey is leading us somewhere. Somewhere off in the distance. A place of promise and a place of God’s presence. It is a place we dream about and hope for. For First Pres, it is our New Horizon. In the long arc of Scripture, it is the vision we find in Revelation 21. Let’s read Revelation 21:1-7.

This vision given to the author of Revelation is the grand design of God’s redemptive work. It is the melding and union between the created and the eternal. It is a place populated by those bearing the image of God and saturated fully and completely in the presence of God. It is a place where sorrow and pain and heartache and death are utterly erased and have no existence. It is a place where redemption has blossomed new life in unexpected and marvelous fashion and where every need is met and every emptiness filled. It really is almost unbelievable. Robert Mounce, a renowned New Testament scholar, describes it well when he says “the entire presentation stretches the limits of human vocabulary and thought.” And this holy city is given foundation and location not upon rock or stone but upon our very hearts. Our intimacy with God could not be more perfect.

What we find in Revelation 21 is a description of that which God is fostering and the ultimate destination to which we are being called. Everything we are, every created fiber of our being, is drawn toward what we find in this vision. We were made by God for the purpose of relationship, formed in our Creator’s image, and filled with the breath of God. Redemption, the divine act of saving and restoring that which had been broken or corrupted, is the means for us to find our place in the vision of Revelation 21. We can’t make out every detail and we can’t explain every reality. It is off in the distance, within our sight but indiscernible at the present moment. It is out beyond the horizon. And yet, the distance is not a deterrent. We press on toward that space of identity and intimacy with our God because it answers the yearning within our own hearts and empowers us to meet the needs of those we encounter.

And the wonderful reality, my friends, is that First Pres is a part of this vision. More than 150 years ago, God called this body of Christ-followers to join in the redemptive work of our Savior to see needs met, people welcomed, and lives transformed. All in and through the powerful truth of the Gospel. And just as John was given this vision of what is to come in our text, so too are called to set our eyes on God’s calling for this family of faith. Who are we supposed to be? What are we to become? Where are we being called?

This whole series and the entirety of our stewardship campaign has focused on these questions. We genuinely believe that God is calling us, as a church, somewhere and that, even after more than 150 years, God is still shaping our identity and directing us to our calling. To answer that call from God means each of us being willing to look out toward what is ahead and dream together what might be found beyond that New Horizon we can imagine. It doesn’t mean forgetting our rich history. No, quite the contrary. Every memory and celebration and moment serves as a monument to the Lord’s incredible faithfulness. Those memories and our relationships serve to spur us onward and remind us of just how sweet and precious the gifts of God truly are. Later on in our service, we’ll share with you our final stewardship video. In it, you will hear what it was that drew 5 different people to this family of faith. Some recently and some quite a many years ago. John’s vision in Revelation 21 saw that which once was, the entirety of the created earth, be made new and shaped in God’s grand design. That creation was not erased or forgotten; it was redeemed. God will do the same thing with all of our fond memories and joys that we possess as a community of faith.  What we continue to become as God’s church will be imprinted by and fostered out of what we have been.

The truly exciting question is what we will find as we journey into our next chapter of presence and ministry together as a church. There’s no question about it. There is a New Horizon before us. As a family of faith, we must vision and dream together about what and who we will become. Those same folks who will tell you what first drew them to First Pres in our video later will also share some of their hopes for our church as well. And I know each of you has hopes and dreams for this church. The leadership of our church has tried to foster some clarity to that vision with both our recent mission study and the visionary budget document all of you received.

We want to be a family of faith that welcomes everyone so that each and every person might come face to face with the incredible affection and grace found in the heart of our God. We want to be a loving and intentional neighbor within our community of Bloomington-Normal. We want to build homes for the homeless, give food to the hungry, help foster the stories of children and teenagers, and we want to be a part of the movement that silences and eradicates prejudice, violence, and poverty. We want to bring people to the altar of God’s presence and remind them that worshipping our Lord does not mean simply singing the right hymn or having a favorite pew. Worship is a lifestyle, a breathing pattern, a heartbeat. We have so many hopes and so many dreams and the thrilling truth is that God gives us the ability and the privilege to participate in that inspiring vision, the same one we see at the end of Revelation. With our continued presence, with our stewardship pledges, with our willingness to activate and utilize our unique gifts and passions. I hope and pray that you join with us as we embark on Going Where God is Calling and that you will be filled with all wonder and hopefulness as we head toward that New Horizon.

Let’s pray.

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