I like to watch Channel 4’s ‘Grand Designs’: to see a house emerge from the germ of an idea, to a beautifully crafted masterpiece. I confess, though, I often choose to skip 50 minutes of Kevin McCloud’s handwringing about whether the budget will stretch, the marriage survive, or the dream be realised, and go straight to the last 10 minutes of reveal, when the house with gleaming kitchen, open stretches of glass, ingenious lighting and all mod cons, is unveiled.
I’ve been thinking recently about God’s Grand Design, in the company of Isaiah 65, and with the help of a small pamphlet by Raymond Fung of the World Council of Churches, called ‘The Isaiah Vision’, published in 1992.
‘I am making a new earth and new heavens’, says God, through Isaiah.
Fung highlights the vision: no more infant mortality; fulfilled and long-lasting old age; satisfying labour, which is enjoyed by the workers who live in the houses they’ve built and enjoy the fruits of what they have worked for. ‘Who doesn’t share this dream?’ Fung asks. The subtitle of the book is ‘An Ecumenical Strategy for Congregational Evangelism’. Fung’s conviction is that the churches can find partners already working towards bringing this dream to reality in our communities. Some of them will be people of faith, and others will not. The partnership and the dreams are genuinely shared: children thriving; old people flourishing; working people fulfilled, satisfied and at peace.
Churches can find partners already working towards bringing [dreams] to reality in our communities.
Rev Muriel Pearson
Many of our Go For It funded projects demonstrate this social activism and partnership working. Where Fung was ahead of his time, I think, is in his ambition that the worship life of a congregation and the discipleship of believers will be renewed and invigorated by working towards the Isaiah Vision.
Fung says involvement in the Isaiah project will drive us to worship, because we know the reality of our world falls far short of the dream, and so we bring our hopes and concerns, our deep longings, to God. This renewed worship, grounded in our deepest needs and realities, is good news for our partners. The desire to go deeper and follow Jesus more closely, to be authentic disciples in our daily lives, is also the most likely way folk will meet Jesus: through their family and friends.
For Fung, this renewal of worship and the life of the churches are by-products. God’s Grand Design is not the church. The churches, if we choose to be, are God’s partners; God’s hands and feet. But God’s Grand Design is nothing less than the renewal of creation itself. It may be a long way off, but like all Grand Designs, it comes to pass one brick at a time.
About the Author
Based in Glasgow, Rev Muriel Pearson is minister of Cranhill Parish Church, a board member of Cranhill Development Trust, Interim Moderator of Ruchazie Parish Church and a co-opted Committee member of the Church of Scotland’s Go For It Fund.
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