Summary: We all need to have vision in our lives. We need to have vision for ourselves personally. But, just as importantly, we need to have vision for ourselves collectively as a congregation.
History books often refer to World War I as “The war to end all wars.” We all know how untrue that is. There was of course World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq twice plus numerous other skirmishes that our troops have been involved in. That doesn’t even begin to mention the battles that other countries have had in the 89 years since the war to end all wars ended in 1918.
When World War I came to a close President Woodrow Wilson spent six months in France negotiating the peace treaty that became known as “The Treaty of Versailles” making him the first president to travel to Europe while in office. Now you know something that might one day help you with Final Jeopardy, but I digress. Wilson came up with a fourteen-point peace plan, the keystone of which was the League of Nations. Wilson’s thinking was that the League could solve matters diplomatically without the need for military intervention. Wilson believed so much in the idea of The League of Nations that he was willing to forget the other thirteen points of his peace plan.
In the end some of Wilson’s points did eventually become reality, one of them was the League of Nations. For his efforts he won the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. That was the good news. The bad news was, The Treaty of Versailles never received ratification from the Senate. Because the U.S. was never a party to the treaty, the U.S. never became a member of the League of Nations.
Because France, Belgium, and other countries that suffered terrible destruction in the war insisted on war reparations and because of the absence of the U.S. in the League of Nations as well as other issues, the peace, as we all know, was not a lasting peace and the world fell into war once again with the rise of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany only twenty years later.
II Though his success is obviously questionable, the war to end all wars was not the last war in the history of the entire world. I believe that it is without question that Woodrow Wilson was a man of vision. He was a man who was able, somewhere in the depths of his mind, to look into the future and see a world with a different look.
Perhaps you saw and remember the bumper sticker of a few years ago that said, “Visualize World Peace.” That bumper sticker caused many of us to stop and think and to try to see in our mind’s eye what a world of real peace might look like. I can’t speak for you and what you might see but when I would think about world peace, when I tried to visualize world peace, what I saw was not only a world where there was no more war, but also a place where we human creatures made a real and genuine attempt to not only see the people around us, but attempted to understand them. We wanted to see and to understand their problems. But even more than that, what I saw was us trying to help each other to solve those problems. That is what I saw because I believe that the only way that we will have world peace is to understand each other.
Obviously Woodrow Wilson probably never saw that bumper sticker. I don’t even know if they had bumper stickers in Wilson’s day. What I do know is that Wilson understood the concept. Wilson was able to look out at the world and see a different place, a place of peace. He could visualize world peace. I think most of us could do the same.
What I think made Woodrow Wilson different from most of us is that he was not only able to visualize world peace, he was able to come up with a concrete plan to do something about it. He truly believed that the League of Nations would bring world peace and he worked tirelessly to bring his dream into reality.
III As we have already said, Wilson’s idea failed. It did not, however, stop him from first, having the dream and then second, working to make it a reality.
Perhaps that too is a difference between Wilson and us. He not only had an idea that he thought might work, he wasn’t afraid to give it a try. What a novel concept. So many in the world today have dreams. They have big dreams. But, they also have something else, and they have it in large doses, fear. They fear that they might fail. Some may even fear that they might succeed and what that would mean. They may fear that others might ridicule them and their dreams. The list of reasons and excuses could be endless.