Pastor's Note: We are going on a journey this fall! We don't know exactly where it will lead us -- but our goal is to discover more about God's mission for our congregation! Please join the conversation on October 6 to brainstorm after worship on our core values -- those essential things to carry into the future. And please join us for a second conversation on October ___, again after worship. We need all of our value-holders and creative thinkers to help us understand our mission here in our community and beyond!
If you would like a copy of the book, Canoeing the Mountains, please let Pastor Katherine know. If you miss a Sunday, we are posting the sermons for you here, or you can call Katya and she will print a copy for you to pick up during office hours.
Dreams get our attention. They shift our focus to things we may be ignoring during our waking hours. Dream psychology states, “when the mind rests, the unconscious mind whispers.”[i] There are various theories, but they tend to agree on this essential point.
Nightmares point out the things that we fear. Our dreams reveal hidden emotions of anger, deep uneasiness, or love. Sometimes our dreams point out our personal weaknesses or failings. Even our wild dreams have something to teach us. The Celts described our time of dreaming as “thin places,” where the boundaries between heaven and earth are blurred. They are perhaps times when God has a bit more access to our minds – which explains the large number of dreams we find in the scriptures.
God’s dreams or wishes for us often come as an interruption. We are going about our business, the business of life, when…
Jacob’s story is like this. Jacob is running away from home because he and his mother have tricked his father, more or less, into giving him his brother’s blessing and his brother Esau is really angry. So Jacob is running away from home. About 750 miles from home and he doesn’t have a car or even a bicycle.[ii] You can imagine that he is anxious. Maybe even terrified – and thinking about himself, the journey, if he’ll be able to actually find Haran and what kind of welcome he’ll get when he gets there. Scary stuff!
Jacob lies down on the ground – because that’s what he’s got. And he puts a rock under his head for a pillow – because that’s what he’s got. He is probably feeling pretty sorry for himself. And he has this dream – of a ladder from earth to heave, heaven to earth, and angels going up and down those ladders. It isn’t the kind of dream we would expect. We would expect something more like the bad dreams of showing up for the first day of school and you don’t have what you need, or you are a month late, or you forgot to put on clothes. Those kinds of dreams show our fear in new circumstances. But he dreams of angels. So maybe this is not an ordinary dream – it’s one from God.
Maybe this dream is a “wake up call” to Jacob – it isn’t all about you! Jacob is actually NOT the center of the known universe! Jacob isn’t God. God is God. The dream works in shifting his focus from himself to God. It reminds him that God is with him – that actually God is everywhere and working in ways that Jacob has no idea! It’s at least a mild correction – if not a smack-down! God’s dream interrupts Jacob’s thoughts, and even his life, to remind him of some important things. That Divine interruption changed the course of Jacob’s life FOR THE BETTER!
II. God’s dream or purpose for us is usually to transform us, to mold us a bit differently so that we help others more. When we catch glimpses of God’s vision, we see that God’s dreams for us are bigger than we can imagine!
It’s time to talk about BHAGs. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and some other leadership books came up with the acronym for “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” Pastor Mike Slaughter renamed BHAG to be “Big Hairy Audacious God-purpose.” I like that even better because it reminds all of us that God has a purpose for our lives – and God has a purpose for our church. Great dreams come from God, not our own imaginations.
“Helen Keller was asked what would be worse than being born blind. She responded, ‘To have sight and no vision.’” We need a dream or vision to lead us on to greater things, to lift us up out of our limited imaginations.[iii]
We are approaching our 150th birthday as a congregation. That is really exciting – and maybe a bit scary. As we have birthdays, we learn that as we get older there is more that everyone expects of us. When you turn two nobody gets upset if you put your whole face in your cake. But you can’t do that at six: you have to act nicely and share with everyone. And when you turn forty, or fifty, or sixty – we really start to wonder what we are supposed to be doing with our lives at this point. It isn’t about games and school anymore, we are supposed to have answers. It’s the same with churches. When a church is as old as ours, the questions are “Why are we here? What does God want FUMCOP to do?” And the answer isn’t the same one as when it began. We have to find an answer for this time frame. And yes, there are certain answers we know – God wants all Christians to love God, follow Jesus and make disciples. BUT we also know that each congregation has specific tasks, specific abilities that they need to use for God’s purposes – just like each of us has talents that we are supposed to use for God’s work of caring and sharing and loving others. But God’s dream for us is bigger than we can dream on our own – more exciting than we would dare to dream.
III. We need to discover what is God’s dream for us so we can grow towards it. We need to find our specific ways to care and share and love others as God wants us to do. God’s dream will pull us into the future.
That FUTURE part is important – because WE tend to focus on the past. But God wants us to move into the future!
The word for vision in Hebrew is CHAZON. It means “revelation” or “what God wants you to be.” And vision needs a task – a job to do in order to make it come about, to make it real. [iv]
God’s vision for the church tends to have a few general tendencies, according to retired bishop Dick Wills.[v]
It will deal with kingdom, or kindom, issues
It will be bigger than we can accomplish on our own – we will need God to do it!
It will be clear
It will require a group to carry it out
I don’t know what it will be – we’ll have to discover it together. But I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do with us for the kingdom! It will be surprising, and exciting – because that is what God’s dreams are like. And it will probably demand a lot of us, but it will pull us together as a team, which means it will also be fun and wonderful! It will pull us into “the God stuff.” God’s dreams are always future-oriented. They pull us out of our comfort zones and into the realm of God’s imagination.
Divine interruptions. Reality check. Big dreams and Future orientation. Pulling us into the God-stuff. Are we ready to start dreaming?
[ii] Distance between Beer-sheba and Haran.
[iii] Ministry matters, sermon options, July 23, 2017. Sermon: Dreaming God’s Dream.
[iv] Dick Wills, Awaking to God’s Dream. 16-17
[v] Dick Wills, 23.