Well, you’ve probably been up for a few hours already this morning. What do you remember from when you were asleep? What did you dream of last night? I don’t remember most of my dreams and maybe you don’t either. But all of us have dreams, and I’m not just talking about the ones we have when we’re asleep! What are your dreams?
It may seem like a question for young people. Certainly, especially for those who have their whole life ahead of them, if you ask “What are your dreams?” they might answer with what they want to be, or what they want to become. Their focus is on the future. Those of us who are past those early years can learn something from their example when we find ourselves dreaming of the past or longing for former times.
But all of us have dreams. Those dreams may have something to do with wealth, or power, or fame, or security, or love. To be a human being is to have dreams.
Today’s first reading uses some form of the word “dream” five times.
Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully…Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Jeremiah is speaking about the false prophets of his day, but he’s also speaking to each of us! His question is, “What is God’s dream?”
Jesus says something similar in our reading from Luke, when he says, I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled—or, how I dream that it were already kindled! Jesus is looking ahead.
To be human is to dream dreams. To be God also is to dream dreams! The question is, whose dream do we commit our lives to? Our own dreams—or God’s dream?
Over the course of our lifetimes one type of dream that we hear lifted up over and over is the American Dream. So I looked it up. As you might expect there are different definitions and interpretations. Most of it has to do with personal freedom, prosperity, home ownership. All of it has to do with personal effort, with hard work. This is a great example of a human dream. But how do human dreams measure up to God’s dream?
Today’s psalm provides a sketch of what God’s dream looks like:
Save the weak and the orphan; defend the humble and needy; rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked. It’s a dream that runs throughout the Bible. Our mission, our purpose on earth is the fulfillment of God’s dream. The Christian aim is to make God’s dream our own.
A prophet from our own time spoke of dreams. I have a dream, proclaimed the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a speech made 50 years ago next Sunday. I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, he said. But we know that it wasn’t just a human dream he spoke of; his dream describes God’s dream for all humanity. Dr. King’s dream was not about grasping for personal prosperity; it was about a life committed to economic justice, to dignity, and to equality for all people.
We, too, at our best, are committed to God’s dream. When we serve the men of ARISE or women at the Center of Hope, we commit ourselves to God’s dream. When we use the gifts that God has given us to provide housing for a family in need we commit ourselves to God’s dream. When we spend time and dollars on Luther’s Table and the Homeless Vets Center we are participating in God’s dream. We do these things not because we feel sorry for people in need. We don’t do it to earn points with God and we certainly don’t do it merely to feel good about ourselves. We serve in these ways because these are God’s values, God’s vision—God’s dream—of justice and dignity, of full humanity, for all God’s children.
This is hard work, it’s often thankless work, and it’s not without controversy. In today’s reading from Luke Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” He describes a divided family, which could also mean a divided church family. We, and all Christians, constantly are at risk of being distracted from God’s dream by human priorities. Households and congregations and denominations always are at risk of becoming distracted and divided, of devoting time and energy to fighting among ourselves, forgetting our purpose. Out of fear and self-interest it is easy to forget God’s dream for us and for the world.
But God’s word, as the prophet declares, is like a fire, and like a hammer, burning away and breaking apart whatever we construct that divides and distracts us. God’s word works in our hearts by showing us that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Today’s reading from Hebrews does just that! It’s a long list of people who kept their focus on God’s dream. They served, they suffered. But the point of all that, the writer tells us, is not necessarily what they accomplished, not even what they suffered. The point is that we are surrounded by lives and stories that point to God’s dream. We are surrounded, he says, by so great a cloud of witnesses. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves!
We are part of something so big, in fact, that we may very well find ourselves saying, “I/We can’t do that.” “That’s not practical.” “That’s too risky.” “That’s not humanly possible.” For example, take your bulletin and look at our mission statement. It’s there every Sunday, but read it again.
Are you on board with every detail? Or, is there something bigger here than the people and categories each of us feels comfortable with? God’s dream is always bigger than our own.
Consider our size and our budget. How do we as a congregation do what we do? Pr. Mary Lindberg of Compass Housing Alliance was here last Sunday. She’s one of many in our synod—including our new bishop—who see what ministries we participate in. They see those ministries (children, LGBT, seniors, homeless) and they recognize those ministries as responses to God’s dream.
God’s dream, you see, should always make us say, “That’s not humanly possible”–which is the point, of course! If what we do is “humanly possible” then who needs God? If we’re simply balancing the budget, gathering once a week to socialize with friends—who needs God for that? No, for something as big as God’s Dream we need the confession of sins and the forgiveness of sins. We need a meal of reconciliation. We need the hammer and fire of God’s Word. We need to be reminded of that cloud of witnesses, who suffered uncertainty and even failure; who nevertheless trusted that they were part of something much bigger than what they could see or experience or even imagine in their lifetime.
Dear Friends in Christ, we are blessed with so great a cloud of witnesses to encourage and inspire us. Let us therefore live boldly, faithfully, courageously, that we might today and long after we are gone be among those who inspire new generations to work for God’s dream! AMEN