One of my favourite sitcoms was and still is ‘The Good Life’. You remember it, Tom Good, fed up with his life, of the rat race, to and from work, the pressures that go with it, leave him longing for another way, so with the lovely Barbara they decide to become self-sufficient in Surbiton and live what is for them the good life.
At some point they’d grasped another vision of how their lives might look, no longer dictated by external demands in being self-sufficient they were singing their own song. This morning we remembered Lady Richeldis and her vision of the Holy House at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham but what of us?
So let me begin tonight by posing three related questions. What would you describe as your vision for life? What would be the factors that inform that vision? And have those factors changed?
And vision is also on our minds because of that first reading from Ezekiel when in verse 27 we heard ‘The vision that he sees is for many years ahead; he prophesises for distant times.’
So how would you describe your vision for life? For many of us I guess it’s something we don’t think about it that much. We just get on with living.
Yet along the way we will have and still do make choices and I believe if we are to live the good life then we need some sense of what we think that good life is. A vision of what we are striving for in our three score years and ten of this fragile life on this beautiful earth.
And once we have it, we then pray for the determination and grace to make it happen, so that our lives reflect the vision of what we think of as the good life. And this life is precious, we don’t have forever, it’s now we live.
A couple of years ago I came words from a poem of Nadine Stair, written when she was 85 and dying, she wrote
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them. In fact,
I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.
One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.
This was her vision for life and though in some ways it seemed that she grasped that vision a bit too late they still bounce with freedom and joy, are true in the richest sense, make us think and maybe invite us to be more joyful, reckless and to make the most of the time that is before us.
So what is your vision for life? And here we turn to what the faith we share brings to our seeking of the good life. For the vision of what is the good life isn’t sometimes what people might think, for it’s not rooted in a selfish pursuit of this and that, rather in letting go, two words at the heart of our faith. Faith in Christ enriches our living, gives it depth and meaning.
When we come to the end of our lives I’m guessing that most of us don’t want to be left with lingering feelings of I wish I had spent more time at the office or I wish I had spent more time watching soap operas (important though they are). Instead we want to look back on the good life when we have loved and forgiven, been generous and merciful and laughed lots.
Things which seem to me to go to the very heart of who Jesus was and how his life informs our own. (I find the picture of Jesus laughing such a good image)
Think of tonight’s reading in which he restores a man to sound and sight. He does the same for us, restores us and invites us to grasp a new vision of the good life even though we can sometimes be blind and deaf to it.
So to go back to those questions I posed near the beginning. Surely our vision of a good life is informed by the Christ-like desire to live as fully as we might in any given moment, to love, to forgive, to make whole.
And to answer the second and third question the life of Christ in us does shapes who we are and so inevitably over time, as we grow in faith and work out what is really important to us then our vision changes, is informed by our experience of life and what we really think is important.
And once we have and live up to our vision for the good life then this has consequences for how we see the world around us. It informs the bigger picture of the kind of communities we wish to be part of both here at church but also more widely. Surely we all long for a community rooted in soft edges not hard, in beauty and patience and humour and goodness.
It may seem fanciful but if it begins with the vision we have grasped for ourselves, a vision in some way is likely to universal, for we human beings are not so very different wherever we are, then even the darkest places are capable of being something else.
And as Christians part of our calling is to be like Ezekiel prophetic and hold before ourselves and our world a different vision ‘The vision that he sees is for many years ahead; he prophesises for distant times.’ The Good Life.
So I’ll leave you with that question ‘How would you describe your vision for life.’