Tonight I want us to consider what watching a television programme or a film without the sound going is like.
Some of the older members of the corps may recall the tradition of silent films from days gone by, where nobody spoke audibly but only through text and facial expressions. Male members of the band, when groups like Girls Aloud or Sugababes come on the telly, you may be happy to watch their actions visually but you'll hit the mute button, because their music may not necessarily be your cup of tea!
How about you DVD collectors who, after you've watched the main feature, check out the outtakes and deleted scenes. I'm often fascinated by the differences between the final mater cut and the outtake sequences, which always seem to lack something. Not only does it lack accuracy, as to what the finished item should be, but they often feature no music to go along with the mood of the scene. There's no background noise, where the extras natter away and go about their own business. Only the basics are empathisised in those outtake scenes - where the actors play their parts on a scaled-down basis, while the cameras roll, and ultimately they mess up; hence why take two and take three, and so on, is required before the finished and accurate sequence is in the can.
In the Salvation Army, we make a lot of noise on a weekly basis. We have plenty of sound; whether it be from the music we make, from the social scene among our comrades or even the outreach work we deliver to our respective communites. But I'd like to know if we have as much of a clear-cut view as to what our vision entails folks, particularly if we are to combine our sound to go with it.
Let me ask you:
what if that sound was taken away?
what if the mastered cut we produced wasn't satisfactory for God?
what if God's version of our mission in the Salvation Army became an outtake on the cutting room floor?
Just as our vision as a church has sound, that sound we posess must have vision as well. When we make our music, it can't just be about the here-and-now, it has to also be about where its going. Where we are going with it! When we interact socially with people in our corps and around our division, its all well and good thinking about the present age, for some its about the past (which can't always happen) but as Christians we mus acquire a vision to take our witness further, so it remains strong. And I don't need to go into too much detail about the vision our social outreach centres and workers need but, for those linked with that, I'm sure they'll agree that the vision needed there is paramount! We may find it difficult t full these seats and this hall friends but we can't use that as an excuse not to fill the seats of Heaven.
So what does this vision require?
Foremostly this vision requires unity and harmony among each other:
The text we read from earlier, Paul writes in verse 10 that he was appealing to the Corinthian church to be united and forget about their divisions. Corinth was stuck in a rut, for many reasons, but one of them was down to the divisions and lack of unity needed to move forward in the name of Christ. Are we "perfectly united in mind and thought" friends? If not, maybe the Lord is prompting you to do something about it, so His vision can be fulfulled.
We can't afford to fight or argue with each other friends (verse 11):
Some of you may know I was in a rock band in my late teens. We had a pretty good outfit and some potential on us. The musicianship was good, the banter was good, the repetoire as.....alright(!) But, as time went on, we started to disagree and then we were barely speaking to each other at all and everything else suffered big time because there was no communication. We couldn't even agree to disagree! The foundation was gone. I ask you now, if you want your vision to continue friends, please end your quarrel. Now.
Focus on the one person, the one figure of worship - our Heavenly father! (verse 12):
The people of Corinth weren't going anywhere in their vision becxause they were divided in who to look up to; Paul, Apollos, Peter, Jesus. Who do you follow today? Who is it you strive to be like in your faith? Is it your C.O? Your section leaders? Your Sergeant-Major? Or is it Christ Jesus? Its great to have people to aspire to in many ways but Christ is perfect. No human is better or more worthy of such praise and admiration. Are you focusing on Christ for your vision? If not, you need to ask yourself "why not?"
Paul gives all the credit back to God in our passage we read (verse 14): "I'm thankful that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no-one can say that you were baptised into my name". Paul is not self-indulgent here and he doesn not take any credit to save for himself. He is clear what his vision is to be and what is required to make it work. He knows what type of sound has to be coupled with it and what a positive influence it can have a people. On everyone who is open to it!
You know, sometimes when we go to church, we often hear what we don't want to hear. Its all well and good getting something from what we agree with that takes place, torught either music or spoken work but the challenge can lie strongly in what we were not prepared for. I wonder if I've said anything this evening that you dodn't want to head. I wonder if you're sitting thinking along the lines of "Grrr, that Dan coming out with such a comment...", "Who does he think he is?!" The truth is I stand here before you delivering His word this evening about it. You need to allow the sound of God's voice in your ear and his vision in your heart.
Perhaps you need to sort out your vision; I don't know. But if there's one thing I ask of you right now is take time out with yourself and God. Let Him in and speak to you. You can't hide from it and you can only do nothing about it for so long, because He has the plans figured out - and He's going to have it His way, regardless. Do you need to put the right kind of sound back in your life? Do you need a new idea of what your vision should be? Or do you need both?
Maybe you're sitting there thinking you need neither! Well fair play to you, you really have heard stuff you didn't want to hear tonight! But I sincerely doubt that's the case and, if you need to make a response to that, our place of prayer is open as always. The holiness table is available if you want to stand at it or feel free just to kneel at your seat.