Vision – More Than a Dream


Rev. Don Beaudreault
First Parish Brewster UU
September 27, 2015

OPENING WORDS: “Failed plans…”

Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.

John C. Maxwell

MEDITATION: “Three Bricklayers”

Once there were 3 bricklayers. Each one of them was asked what they were doing.

The first man answered gruffly, ‘I’m laying bricks.’

The second man replied, ‘I’m putting up a wall.’

But the third man said enthusiastically and with pride, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’
Author Unknown

This story clearly reveals two secrets of success:

  1. Attitude – Your attitude towards whatever you are doing determines your ultimate level of success. Having enthusiasm and pride in what you are doing will show in your work. Your attitude is one of the most important things that you control. You choose your attitude each and every day. And the choice you make will determine your success.
  1. Ability to See the Bigger Picture – Being able to see the end result, rather than just the task, eliminates obstacles, focuses your energy, and provides motivation to excel. At times our focus is only on the immediate task. When we change our focus on the bigger picture or the end result it provides motivation to continue, it inspires solutions to challenges.

To summarize, when you face challenges, when you feel discouraged, when you feel like you will never reach success, remember the story of The Three Bricklayers and look at your attitude and visualize your end result!

Catherine Pulsifer

SERMON: “Vision – More than a Dream”

Bricks? Wall? Or Cathedral?

Which one are you building?

In your personal life?

In your association with this congregation?

Brick builders are just doing their job. No enthusiasm. No creativity. Just muddling through: brick after brick, day after day, year after year. Doing what they’re told. Accepting their situation. Exemplifying existences that the sometime Unitarian, Henry David Thoreau, described as “lives of quiet desperation” to which he adds that they “go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Wall builders have some direction. But are limited to seeing only the wall before them: their particular concern in the here and now. Not the larger picture. Not the possibilities. These are people who can’t see the forest for the trees. They get caught up in the details, in the minutiae, in dotting every “i,” and crossing every “t” to the point of not being able to imagine a world beyond small stuff.

Vision builders are impassioned with a purpose. And therefore they lay those bricks, too; they build those walls. But they do so with intentionality, with direction, with zest. They inspire others to a shared concept. They know, too, that their plans might change, but their vision doesn’t. That is a thing of the heart. It is their very essence.

But, what is a vision?

The sermon title says that it is more than a dream, at least in the sense of a dream in verb form meaning: “to contemplate the possibility of doing something or that something might be the case.”

Where is the zest in that language?

A vision moves beyond just a “possibility” of doing “something.” It goes to a different level beyond merely contemplating “that something might be the case.”

A vision is more muscular, more dynamic, more assured.

It speaks of actuality: of commitment to be about the task of doing – not just talking about doing.

This is not to say that the process precludes talking, re-designing, dealing with challenges and challenging people, or experiencing setbacks along the way.

But it is to say that despite this process, the vision itself is never lost.

We all know people who have had vision – either individuals in our personal lives, or ones we have heard about. Perhaps we, too, think of ourselves as visionaries.

Now, despite the fact that one wanders in one’s personal or collective desert for what seems like an eternity, hoping to find the “promised land,” visionaries never give up the hope; never stop shuffling through the sands toward their ultimate destination.

It’s hard – but they never stop. Even if they never reach their goal.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, speaking of his dream for racial equality – and when he spoke of a “dream” he spoke of a vision -affirmed in that famous speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968, the day before he was assassinated:

We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop….I would like to live a long life…But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!

Oh no, Martin’s vision is not over – it is still there. We all have work to do to make it a reality.

The vision of this congregation is still there, too. It’s been there for 215 years. It’s taken a multitude of people over a long history and present reality to keep the vision alive, despite the trials and tribulations throughout its existence.

All of us need to put this reality into perspective when we envision this congregation.

Or we can just continue to lay bricks throughout the years without feeling connected to a larger purpose.

Or we can just continue to lay bricks to build up our own little walls in order to protect our particular territory.

Or we can just continue to lay bricks and build a cathedral – not necessarily a literal one, but a cathedral of the heart, mind and spirit where all can come just as they are. A congregation beyond walls; beyond boundaries. A place that not just says nice things, but does nice things.

To articulate that vision through deeds, not creeds.

But do we as a congregation need to do this?

That is a question that some are asking me – either directly or not.

And another question that goes along with the first one:

Why is it a top-down decision to undertake a visioning process?

And a third question which connects with the other two:

Why should this process take so long?

Let me try to answer those concerns.

Do we need to do this?

Notice that I am saying “we” not “you” because I’m here. And I am here to help you do a job. That is why the board of trustees hired me. I just want to do that job, my friends. And that job is not to tell you what to do – but merely to help establish a process with the guidance of others – so that you can reflect on who you are as a congregational community and who you want to be. Everybody has a chance to do that in this process. And, you don’t have to. This is, after all, a free faith society. But…hear me out. Please let me ask you to not negate the process or those who are trying to guide it or be part of it. Because, yes, you as a congregation told me you needed a person called a UU minister to help you understand how to achieve your vision. But…my being here for 14 months and constantly observing you, I don’t think you have a specific collective vision. Lots of individual ones for sure. But what makes First Parish Brewster distinctly Fist Parish Brewster?

Are we merely a collection of individuals doing our own thing? Or are we, indeed, something more. Something called a Unitarian Universalist congregation, connected to the larger movement of Unitarian Universalism throughout the world. A movement that speaks of the power of the individual within community to effect change in the world, in order to make it more loving, more peaceful, more just – where we do, indeed, stand on the side of love – and not just love of self. But universal love?

So, yes, we need this vision process. It will give us clarity of direction. It will urge us to talk face-to-face; and to make plans together toward a definition of who we want to be.

As far as it being a top-down decision to undertake this process…

Let me say that it’s just a suggestion from me based upon my ministerial contract with you – and based upon standard operating procedure within the Unitarian Universalist Association. Congregations go through this process all the time.

But admittedly they do not do it the way I – with guidance from some leaders in the congregation – am suggesting.

This way of doing visioning is new territory for UU congregations. It might be as long as a two-year process. And it will be very creative and involve the thoughts and actions and feelings and art displays and musical involvement and dance and food of the entire congregation – it is a multi-generational process.

That means, the kids too!

Which brings me to that third question: Why will the visioning process take so long?

Well, normally in UU congregations or other congregations, or in business corporations or philanthropic organizations or other types of groups that are creating a vision – a purpose – an identity – the process does not take so long.

But you have the luxury of having me! A Developmental Minister is in your midst. I am a movable feast for you – if not a movable target. At least for the next just-under-two years. It is the luxury of time that you have. Time to experiment. To try new things. To be creative. Time to carefully, patiently, come to clarity on some major issues of organizational procedures, of personal relational matters, of history – both positive or not, of social justice outreach, of nourishing our children and youth and elders (and maybe some of us in-between types, too), of future financial security, of the care and feeding of volunteers and staff and church members and friends and visitors, of caring for those in physical and emotional distress, of deepening spiritual direction.

These, and so much more, create the fabric of religious community, and you as a congregation need to evaluate where you are right here and right now.

So our visioning process is not a Saturday morning retreat: a few quick hours to come up with a statement about who we are. Ours is a go-deep and go-broad assessment about who we are and what our vision might be.

Whew! That’s a lot of work you might be thinking.

But we can have fun with this process, and not think of it as drudgery but as a commitment to this congregation and to its present and future existence. And we, being the process people we are, can always adapt the program – can’t we?

So, I ask for your commitment in this process that kicks off today with our small group discussions about “Vision.”

And I ask for your patience and direct loving communication with me and with each other as we collectively create a deepening sense of community through this process known as “visioning.”

And I ask you to not to be afraid of some change. If change is required, it the people want it, change will occur.

But that is life, isn’t it, my friends?

Let me close with short two quotes:

The first from Cullen Hightower who reminds us:

Discipline without freedom is tyranny; freedom without discipline is chaos.

And then, these words from Proverbs 29:18, the King James Version:

Where there is no vision, the people perish.

CLOSING WORDS: “Where there is no vision…”

Where there is no vision, there is no hope.

George Washington Carver