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Dare to Dream

October 18, 2021

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”  Psalm 126: 1-2

What do you dream about?  The corner office?  A special trip? Marrying the love of your life? A houseful of kids? Owning a villa in Tuscany or a castle in England? Being President of the United States or a major league baseball or basketball player?  Writing the Great American Novel or sculpting a David? Playing in the LA Philharmonic? 

When he addressed the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. described his dream: “So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., like his namesake, Martin Luther, was steeped in the scriptures.  He made repeated references to scripture in his speeches; his dreams were based on Biblical principles. MLK “got it.”  He caught God’s dream for his country and his role in that dream.  

God’s people over the millennia have dreamed of freedom and of a messiah who would bring a new covenant. The Scripture texts for next Sunday relate to the dreams held by God’s people over several millennia.[1]

Jeremiah was a prophet who preached in the southern kingdom of Judah from about 627 B.C. until 586 B.C., when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. Judah had been moving toward destruction during the reign of the last four kings. In 586, it appeared that God’s plan for salvation had ended.  There was no Israel, no Judah, and no Jerusalem. God’s people were scattered all over the world. 

Jeremiah’s message was one of hope.  Chapter 31 includes a wonderful promise that God will send a Messiah who will usher in a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33).  God assured his people through Jeremiah that he “will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble” (Jeremiah 31: 9b).  He assured them that he would bring them into a new covenant relationship with him.  

Jeremiah’s words still ring true to us today, even in the millennia since Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  In MLK’s words, we are to hang on through “the difficulties of today and tomorrow.”  As Christians, we continue to look forward, not backward. We look forward to try to fulfill God’s dreams for us this side of the grave as well as being reunited with him and with all believers for eternity. Last week’s gospel lesson reminded us that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27b).  Catch God’s dream for your life, for your church, for your country.

 Dreams are visions of the future.  We always have hope because God is always there to be found: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).   In C.S. Lewis’ words, when we switch on our “heart-light” we will be able to see Jesus and his dreams for us clearly.  God yearns for us to be restored to him, as the Judeans yearned for freedom from Babylonian captivity.

But dreams of restoration were a major bone of contention between Jeremiah and the Temple prophets.  They had competing dreams.  The temple prophets’ dreams were a kind of “cheap grace.”  They prophesied that God will defend his people regardless of their behavior–regardless of their godlessness, regardless of their lack of repentance. “Cheap grace” or grace without repentance, is still being preached today.

Psalm 126 is one of several “psalms of ascent.” These were the psalms that were sung by the pilgrims on the 18-mile trek up the hill to Jerusalem from Jericho for one of the three main religious festivals.  The psalmist gives thanks for their deliverance from Babylonian captivity in 539 B.C. when the Persian, Cyrus the Great, conquered Babylon. Cyrus allowed all of the captured people to go home to rebuild their cities. The returning people were full of joy: “. . . we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (Psalm 126: 1b-2). 

They were living the dream. They were overjoyed about being able to return to their homeland. In his book, As Though We Were Dreaming, Keith Ruckhaus posits that dreams that don’t comport to God’s dream for us are just smoke and mirrors: “The Songs of Ascent beckon us in our time of repentance to continually ascend to the open heaven. Part of repentance is allowing God’s dream for humanity to overtake our own dreams.”[2]

In the tenth chapter of Mark, we find Jesus and his entourage heading up to Jerusalem for the Passover.  On their way to Jerusalem, they passed through the ancient city Jericho, about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem.  Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was situated on the side of the road in Jericho where the pilgrims would pass.  When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he caught the dream–the dream of being able to see.  He called out to him, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me” (Mark 10: 47).  By calling him “son of David,” Bartimaeus identified Jesus as the Messiah.  He revealed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah–as the one who could restore his sight. He kept calling out to Jesus, even while others were trying to shut him up. But Bartimaeus had caught the Jesus dream and he wasn’t letting go.  He was finally allowed to go to Jesus, who “immediately” restored his sight: “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mark 10:52).  Bartimaeus became a follower of Jesus, the people of the way.  Jesus’ restoration of his sight is a metaphor for what happens when we catch the God dream– when we open the eyes of our heart to him and follow him.

The author of Hebrews brings us full circle from God’s promise through Jeremiah of a new covenant to confirming that “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7: 22). Jesus tore down the barrier between humanity and God through his death and resurrection: “Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7: 26-27). We can go directly to God under the new covenant. 

In his book, To Dream Again, Robert Dale describes the importance of dreams: “Persons and organizations are largely explained by their dreams.  Over eighty times in the Gospels, Jesus spoke of his dreams of the ‘kingdom of God.’   . . . This ‘kingdom dream’ explains the words and works of Jesus.  Jesus’ dream clearly asked the pivotal question for any congregation: What is our ministry, our kingdom dream?  And the general answer? Our ministry is to be the redeemed and the redeeming people of God, to become the kingdom dream in local communities. No church can minister effectively until it identifies its unique ministry dream, a possible dream, and lives it out!”[3]

God wants us to follow the dreams he has for us as individuals, as church bodies and other organizations, as municipalities, states, and nations.  When our dreams are in alignment with his purposes, he works alongside us to accomplish our dreams— to help us. Those who have been restored to an authentic relationship with the God of the universe will be filled with the joy “like those who dream.”  The psalmist describes those who dream, as having “mouths filled with laughter” (Psalm 126:2).

Catch the dream that God has reserved just for you—- a special person with unique talents, gifts, and resources. Then live the dream.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, gently guide us to recognize the kingdom dream for us and for our faith communities. Open our eyes to see the part you have set before each of us to play in your kingdom dream.  Go before us as we make our way through life. Anticipate our needs and keep us from falling. Send your Spirit to bring us together in faith, rejoicing in your presence among us. We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost are Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; and Mark 10:46-52.

[2] Keith Ruckhaus, As Though We Were Dreaming, (2013) Resource Publications, p.108

[3] Robert D. Dale, To Dream Again, (2004) Wipf & Stock Publishers, p.13.

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