Scripture: Luke 6:17-26
Were you one of those kids who
dreaded when it came time to pick teams for basketball, dodgeball or soccer in gym class? Or were you one of those kids that always got picked first?
Regardless, it was always a good thing if your best pal was captain that day. Then, no matter how good or bad you played, at least you knew you would get picked early. The truly bad days were when your worst sport & your worst enemy came up on the same day. Gradually, all the kids around you would begin to funnel into one team line or the other, while you stood there, more & more alone, the worst kind of stand out. An obvious reject.
Learning what it feels like to be an outcast is a painful lesson that stays with us all our lives. Having felt the sting of rejection as a helpless child shapes the way we relate to people as adults.
Have you ever wondered why some people just close down – avoiding any risk of rejection by never really opening up to others? Do you wonder why some people buy their way into popularity & acceptance – they flatter, they offer foolish gifts & false compliments, doing anything – just to make sure they will always find a welcome mat instead of a closed door?
I think its fear. They’re not being uptight; it’s not a genial, generous temperament that drives these attempts to achieve acceptance.
Here is some free advice: don’t waste your breath, your time or your energy dreaming about being loved & appreciated by everyone you meet! That is a false & puny dream, guaranteed to stunt your soul & suck out your spirit. It just isn’t going to happen. Jesus offered this week’s remarkable list of “blessings” & “woes” to warn against a shrinking of his disciples’ outlooks & dreams & to demonstrate what kind of dreams Jesus followers should be dreaming.
For example, the poor shouldn’t just dream about finally getting a roof over their heads or shoes on their feet. The dream-come-true for the poor that Jesus offers is that they will receive nothing less than all the glory that is the kingdom of God! You heard right! God’s kingdom is theirs.
The hungry shouldn’t just dream about a big, juicy steak or a thick slice of peach pie. The dream-come-true that Jesus offers the hungry is that they will be forever filled & satisfied at the sumptuous table of the heavenly banquet!
The weeping & sorrowful shouldn’t just dream about having their burdens lifted. The dream-come-true that Jesus offers those who are mourning is that they will bubble over with laughter & light-heartedness, that joy will fill their lives.
Ennobled & enrobed, enriched & empowered, satisfied & fulfilled, joyfully alive – that is the life Jesus dreams of for his people. This is the dream Jesus intends for you & for me!
I want you to compare Jesus’ vision with your own best hopes & dreams for yourself & your future. Are you guilty of starving your soul? Are you dreaming puny, pint-sized dreams instead of the amazing, outstanding, out-of-sight, out-of-this-world dreams that God has for you? Do you find yourself daydreaming more & God-dreaming less?
The called General Conference begins on Saturday. Are you looking forward to the future God has in store for you & his church, or are you fearful & afraid that all that has been done here at Shiloh is about to amount to nothing? Friends, let me assure you: God has the future! God is & will be in control!
I also believe that one of the most insidious & dangerous dreams with which we have tried to satisfy ourselves is the “make a difference” dream, as theologian Len Sweet calls it. I am afraid that our General Conference will settle for it, because we’ve all done this type of dreaming for so long that it is looked upon as laudable, even noble.
“Make a difference” dreams start out sounding pretty good. Charting our dreams for the future, plotting out our dreams, we vow that what we really need to do is to make a difference in the world. Now, what’s so bad about that? It sounds respectable, honorable, intentional, & most of all – but here’s the catch – doable.
But guess what? We were not put on this earth to “make a difference.” Jesus didn’t offer us the kingdom of God, eternal life, complete fulfillment, the peace that passes all understanding, & the joy of the Lord just so we could “make a difference!”
No, God sent Jesus to die on a cross not to “make a difference” in the world, but to make a different world! Not to make adjustments & accommodations in the existing order, but to throw out the existing order & replace it with God’s order! Not merely (to borrow Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s phrase) to bind the wounds created by the crushing wheel, but to destroy the crushing wheel itself. Not to change our diet, but to change our lifestyle.
God sent Jesus to redeem & re-dream the world. As Jesus’ redeemed & re-dreamed disciples, we are to join in re-dreaming the landscape of life. Not to “make a difference” in life, but to make life different! If we truly want to be part of God’s mission to redeem & re-dream the world, we must stop being slack dreamers. We must get beyond “make a difference” dreams & start stuffing our souls with God-sized dreams!
What has happened to our dreams, friends? William Burroughs has said that a society without dreams is a dead society. Scripture tells us that where there is no vision, the people perish. Are we dreaming anymore? Are we too busy reading & watching TV & raising our families & texting & Facebooking our friends? Are you dreaming anymore, Christians? And if you are, do you actively pursue your dreams?
People often leave jobs, not because their work is completed, but because their dream is dead. Institutions, friendships, marriages, & corporations fall apart not “at their seams,” but at their dreams.
Well, maybe it is “at their seams,” because their dreams are their seams. Dreams are what tie everything together. So, are you dreaming God-sized dreams?
Dr. Luke, the Gospel writer, is prescribing for us in today’s text some BIG dreams – God-sized dreams. Our Scripture challenges us to make life different, to have God-sized dreams, to alter the landscape of life so that it more closely coincides with the kingdom of God. We cannot settle for simply making a little difference here & there.
Church history is full of stories of believers who have accepted Christ’s forthright challenge: the apostles who turned the world upside down so that it would then be right side up; the martyrs through the ages who have faced down the principalities & powers even unto death, proclaiming Christ alone as Lord & Savior; the brave missionaries who have carried the story of the light of the world into every dark place on earth, many dying in the effort; & the countless laymen & laywomen, ordinary people who became extraordinary, as they, under the guidance of Christ, have struggled for justice for the oppressed, help for the helpless, & an end to prejudice.
There are many such heroes of the faith inspired by God-sized dreams who helped to make a different world. We can draw inspiration from their stories, but must be careful to not simply hear them as spectators, but as fellow believers looking for personal ways to change the world in which we live.
One person who comes to mind is especially apropos as we commemorate Black History Month. He is William Lloyd Garrison (1805-79). Garrison was a MA newspaperman & an uncompromising foe of slavery. He tried to use moral persuasion to being about an end to what John Wesley called “the greatest scourge on the face of the earth.” But Garrison’s cause was greatly unpopular & as a result of his speaking & writing in support of abolition, he was beaten by an angry Boston mob, was once imprisoned for 7 weeks, & was repeatedly ridiculed by other newspapers & politicians.
Yet Garrison never gave up. He became president of the American Anti-Slavery Society & continued to work diligently at his audacious dream to abolish slavery in the US. As Norman Vincent Peale once wrote, “he beat his hammer until his hammer grew & became a mighty sledge whose thunderings could be heard throughout the land.”
When slavery was finally abolished, Garrison turned his attention to other causes: helping women gain the right to vote, working for fair pay for Native Americans, & promoting prohibition. He was literally “the conscience of the nation” because he knew God had a better dream for this nation.
When we continue to think small, when we labor under a “make a difference” mindset, we think that if we work hard enough, do well enough, jump through the right hoops, or know the right people, then we can get something done. Then we can make a difference.
In today’s listing of “blessings” & “woes,” Jesus warns his disciples that as purveyors of God-infected dreams, we will experience hatred, exclusion, rejection, & perhaps excommunication from those who would prefer to hear safe “make a difference” dreams & schemes. If you offer the world Jesus’ message of redemption, total re-creation, miraculous rebirth & personal transformation, you will unnerve & disturb those who are satisfied with & invested in status-quo dreaming. God-sized dreams threaten the small schemes & small dreams that “make a difference” souls live on.
Within the next 10 days, we will discover what kind of dreams our denomination dreams. Today, I encourage you to recharge your souls with big dreams, God-sized dreams.
Dream on, fellow disciples, but don’t simply make a difference in the world.
Dream on, fellow disciples, & do make a different world!
Dream Again by Matthew West