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Painting a Vision - Musing for 8/4/21

Sometimes I get asked by folks how it is even possible for us to share the good news of the gospel in a world with so much hate and pain. They are quick to point out that the world can be an ugly place. And the truth is that it often is ugly, and hate filled. The headlines are rarely if ever good. And if a good news story does make the news it is usually hidden on the back pages.

And it is into this reality we are called to share a vision of the glories of God’s promised day. We are to convince folks of a world filled with beauty, even in the midst of the reality in which we find ourselves.

We are called to share of a promised day where love, joy, and grace are all-encompassing.

We are to live our life rejoicing that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And even in these very hard days we must continue to live in hope for the promised day of the kingdom of heaven which we believe awaits us.

I think that often what we need to do for others is to offer a vision and paint a picture of that which we have never seen but know to be true.

I recently came across a wonderful story that illustrates this so well.

The year is 1941. Hitler’s dread legions are on the march. The German advance is heading, with astonishing speed, toward the city of Leningrad — today known by its historic name, St. Petersburg.

Knowing how little protection there is between them and the German advance, the staff of the famous Hermitage Museum has been working around the clock to pack up their priceless paintings and sculptures for transport to a place of safety.

On July 1st, the director of the museum stands weeping at the railway station as three trains, loaded with the treasures of the Hermitage, prepare to leave for the Russian heartland. Not even the conductors know the final, secret destination of those railway cars.

The third train never leaves. Hitler’s forces arrive first, circling the helpless city. Two–and–a–half million people are trapped within, under appalling conditions of hunger and deprivation.

Knowing how important diversion is for the citizenry, the museum staff keeps the palatial building open. Only minor works remain on display, but the building — itself a work of art — continues to draw crowds. Those museum goers remember what once was, and they hope for its return.

The day arrives when even the Hermitage itself is threatened. Falling bombs shatter the windows. Heavy snows drift in, soaking the once–elegant parquet floors. The museum staff enlists war–weary soldiers to shovel up the mixture of snow and glass, haul it out by the bucket load and cover the shattered windows with whatever they can find.

The staff is beyond grateful for these soldiers and their work. They wonder how to thank the soldiers for what they have done, especially under such dire conditions.

A longtime Hermitage guide by the name of Pavel Dubchevski has an idea. He offers the soldiers a

highly unusual museum tour. He leads the hollow–eyed, starving men in their ragged uniforms through the cavernous halls of the museum. So many frames hang empty on the walls, but the guide pauses at each one, describing the painting that used to hang there. Years later, the soldiers would recall that Dubchevski’s descriptions were so vivid and powerful they could almost see the world–famous art treasures.

Pavel Dubchevski, the Hermitage Museum guide, was filling a role that day very much like that of a prophet or an evangelist or a member of LaFayette Presbyterian Church. He brought his full gifts of imagination to bear, creating a vision of hope for those who would otherwise be mired in despair.

We live in a world of despair. In fact, research says deaths due to despair are on the rise. I have linked an article here. And the graph below only magnifies the extent to which people need a vision of hope.

The Book of Proverbs declares, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” As the church we are called to share the vision of the Kingdom of God. I believe that is one of the things for which we were built. So, share your story…share your story of moments when you have glimpsed or lived in the kingdom. Share your hopes of the vision of a better day – a promised day. Paint a picture of love and grace and fullness and joy. Use the gift of your life to create a vision of hope for those who would otherwise be caught up in hopelessness and despair. Share your joy to a world who needs that good news so very desperately.

In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer - Alleluia Amen.


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