“The Church Of God’s Dreams”
Rev. Mike Bailey
May, 24 2015
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’
Do you dream every night? How do you dream? Do your dreams ever frighten you? Can you remember them? Are they in color or black and white? From time to time Lauralee and I (we’re now at the age where our first question to each other in the morning is, “How did you sleep?) chat about the dreams we had the night before. God makes people so different! Lauralee sometimes remembers snatches of her dreams and I dream entire novels and movies, in color! Turn to someone nearby, and if you need to do so, share you name. Then, in general terms share how you dream. And remember share in general terms: you are in church!
Those who study the human psyche believe that dreams can reveal our deepest fears, our highest hopes and our greatest desires. Because dreams reveal our desires and hopes, we often use the word dream, not regarding our sleep, but what we hope for, as in, “I dream of then day when….” This is way Dr. King was using the word “dream” in his “I have a dream” speech in Washington so many years ago. The word “dream” in this context refers to our highest hopes, desires and aspirations for a future, which we want as a reality.
This week I’ve been thinking along the lines of the word, dream, pondering, “What does God dream of for the church?”; the church universal and the congregation, Christ United Methodist Church?
Beginnings in the scriptures are always important. Beginnings reveal God’s trajectory and desire. Today’s passage, the beginning of the church, it’s birthday, reveals what God dreams the church will be. Let’s think about this together.
I believe God dreams of a church that is united. Our passage begins with this apostolic band, the first church, “all together in one place.”
If you think about it, they really shouldn’t have been together should they; given their history with one another.
They were together despite, arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. They were together despite mis-understanding who Jesus was and the nature of His Kingdom. They were together despite Peter even disagreeing with Jesus; now that is a theological difference! They were together despite widely varying backgrounds; a CPA like tax collector named Matthew; a physician named Luke and a bunch of peasant fisherman. They were together, despite being a mixed company of men and women in a day when women were de-valued and excluded. They were together despite knowing one another’s worst moments, who fled and denied when and where in the face of the violence of the cross.
They had little uniformity but had great unity. How?
Simply this, their focus was on following Jesus and sharing his love, forgiveness and ways. They’d received this great gift of life and were united in their passion to give it away. The Holy Spirit came upon them all, another uniting factor, and gave them this passion to share Christ in word and deed; and they did so, despite all the differences!
Don’t you think the world desperately needs the church to be united; to be in unity! Think of how often we hear of a local congregation fracturing. It’s often over something that has nothing to do with eternity! And even denominations are coming apart at the seams over who loves whom. In the meantime, the world so needs the body of Christ, sharing his salvation, his love; being his hands and feet, feeding the hungry and caring for the innocent, little ones of the world. And our arguing causes the world to think we’re an irrelevant old relic from ages past.
I remember hearing the pinnacle, for me, of the church being irrelevant. I heard it from some friends when we lived in Europe. It seems that as the Nazis were rolling tanks into the Netherlands to occupy that little nation and send the Jewish people to concentration camps, the church was in the middle of discussions. What were they discussing? Were they discussing how to stand up to the Nazis and speak a word of justice for the chosen people, the gypsies, the artists, the developmentally disabled and the gay people the Nazis were soon to gas to death? No. The church was arguing and later split over whether the snake in the Garden of Eden spoke Hebrew or Greek to Adam and Eve!
The relevant church is a church united in sharing Christ in Word and deed, letting God sort out the rest in God’s graceful ways. God dreams of a united church.
God, our text reveals, also dreams of a church where ALL are welcomed, loved, reached and cared for, as they are! The church God dreams of can do this trusting God to transform lives. So often, groups, including church will say, “all are welcome”…as long as you conform to our expectations and become like us! Our job is to invite, welcome and love; God’s job is that which only God can do: transform lives. An old bumper sticker expressed this well: God says, Be fishers of People; you catch em, I’ll clean em!
The passage today has the invitation and welcome of Christ spanning the known globe: every nation on earth; all kinds of people are welcomed into the love and life of Christ. How the world needs the church, where all are welcomed, accepted and loved in our era of slicing the human pie demographically and forcing all to choose sides.
Most of the time, and I’ve been waiting to use this phrase a long time, most of the time I find Facebook to be the electronic universe of banality! I just don’t need to see another cute kitten video clip. And yet, sometimes you see something significant on FaceBook; most often poignancy woven from human relationships. I saw something beautiful this past week. It was a picture of an old white man born and reared in Mississippi and next to him was a beautiful young adult African American woman. They were smiling and holding an embroidered sofa cushion, it read: God Bless the Whole World! No Exceptions! To me, that picture illustrates the kind of church God dreams of! God dreams of a world where old white men from Mississippi are pictured with a young adult black woman. God dreams of a church that blesses the whole world! No Exceptions! And by the way, that old fellow in the picture is my father! And the young woman in the picture is my daughter in law and come September she’ll bring me my next grandchild, a little girl, so avoid me then unless you want to see pictures. Fifty years ago, no body could have dreamed of that old white gentleman from Mississippi being the grandfather in law of that young black woman; but God dreamed it and God dreams of a church that welcomes, loves and accepts all…no exceptions!
And finally, God dreams of a church that courageously shares Christ in word and deed, in faith and works! Our text has the one who fled in terror and denial from a serving girl, Peter. And now, he is standing in the belly of the beast, Jerusalem, where the collaborators of evil and violence put Christ to death. Peter, in this place, is boldly sharing Christ, to all. It would seem that God dreams of a church that courageously speaks of the love of Christ and proclaims his justice and mercy even when and where it’s neither easy, convenient nor even safe.
So how can we become the church God dreams of? Left to our own devices we can’t! But just as in the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit can make us the fulfillment of God’s dream! We have a role. We the individual members of the church can practice the spiritual disciplines with….well discipline! They are: prayer, meditation, searching the Word, Christian conferencing (that is being in a spiritual growth small group), service, generosity, fasting, private and public worship and frequent presence at the Table.
Such opens our lives to the Spirit and the Spirit is the change agent for individuals and the cause of the fulfillment of God’s dream for the church…a church that is united in its passion for sharing Christ and his love in word and deed…to all, no exceptions…a church that does so with holy boldness and courage.
Let us pray that we become the realization of God’s dream for the church.