It's seems like a strange phrase to strain out of our vision statement. At first, I wondered how I could preach a sermon on such a small, seemingly insignificant phrase, but I've found it to be crucial to what it means to be the people of God.
We believe that God has called this church to more than just settling down without a vision. We believe that God is calling this church to pursue something larger than ourselves. We're called to love God and go love people.
The word "pursuit" reminds me of the language of journey and movement. It's not stagnant. Pursuit means we are after something. But pursuit also means risk.
When you pursue a degree, you risk wasting money and failing.
When you pursue a career, you risk the many other options of careers that might be more comfortable.
When you pursue a spouse, you risk your heart in the process.
But anything worth pursuing implies the risk of losing what we had before.
In Hebrews 11, we find what we've always called the "Hall of Faith." We read name after name of people who have followed God faithfully no matter the circumstances. But when I begin to read this chapter closely, I notice that the chapter has a lot of language related to "pursuit, journey, and camping."
I think this principle can be tested: God's people at their most faithful have been people who are on the move who realize they have not arrived. The times we are most unfaithful are the times we begin to build our hopes, dreams, and realities in a city that does not last that we do not call home.
When the Israelites set their tent pegs in the ground tightly, they begin to want to look like their neighbors. They follow after foreign gods. And in 1 Samuel 8, they want a king just like all of the other nations. Yahweh was their king, but that wasn't good enough because the other nations had kings. In that chapter, God warns Israel what will happen with a king, but they settle for a human king anyway.
Over and over again, the people of God have settled in a city and God has had to "put them on the journey" again to get them moving. They settle in Egypt because there's a famine, and God's boots them out through Moses. They settle in the Promised Land and God has to use a time of exile in Babylon to get them moving again. The church settles in Jerusalem despite the Great Commission, which command them to go into all the world, and it takes the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD before they move out again.
And today in North America, we're facing another time of unsettledness. For 1600 years, since the days of Emperor Constantine, the church has enjoyed a time in Christendom when the church and state have gotten along well in the West. For over a millennium and a half, the church enjoyed its place at the center of culture, with its tent pegs tightly in the ground. But I think we're beginning to see signs that God is loosening our tent pegs.
So the question is: Will we fight God's "hint to us" and fight our way back to the center of culture or will we choose to journey with God again in the wilderness as we become faithful on the journey again.
We, as a church, desire to be on the journey of God. Wherever he wants to take us is the place we desire to dwell.
And then there's this incredible verse at the end of Hebrews 11:
"These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only with us would THEY be made perfect."
Now, that's a verse you've got to sit with for a minute. All of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 are waiting on us to receive what was promised.
We have a part in their story! In Scripture, we don't just read about past times when God worked through people. Somehow, he's planning to use us to finish the stories we read about in Scripture. Through the power of the resurrection and the Holy Spirit, God is continuing to journey with us.
So, yes...we're in pursuit!