Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection November 12, 2017
"On Dreaming Dreams" by: Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
(Sunday, November 5, sermon) Yesterday (November 4 – my 70th birthday!) an old friend of mine emailed me to say that I was now officially a “geezer.” While this may well be true, I prefer to think of myself at the age of 70 as an elder.
So what does the Bible have to say about elders? Let me mention a passage that is well on its way to becoming one of my favorite Bible quotes. It comes from 1st Timothy: “Do not speak harshly to an old man.“ (1st Timothy 5:1) The Greek word used can be translated as “elder” - and includes both older men and women.
In light of this passage, I’d like the congregation to understand that no one can ever again “speak harshly” to me since I’ve now achieved elder-hood! This is a Bible mandate!
But what do we, elders, do? One thing we’re called to do, as stated in the Book of Joel and repeated in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost Day (Acts 2:14-21), is to “dream dreams.”
This doesn’t mean we, elders, should spend all our time sleeping! But it does mean we’re called, because of our advanced age and the wisdom that ideally comes from elder-hood, to not only dream dreams but to share those dreams, especially with our young.
And the one dream that most matters is God’s Dream. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel so well put it: “To pray is to dream in league with God.” We are, each of us, enfleshed, enmeshed, in God’s dream.
Many will well recall Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I still listen to it on a regular basis. It touched me back on August 28, 1963. It touches me still. But here’s the thing: Dr. King’s Dream deeply echoed God’s Dream.
So what is God’s Dream for us? Yes, God’s Dream is about equality. Yes, God’s Dream is about justice. Yes, God’s Dream is about peace.
But let me share what I believe lies at the center, at the very heart, of God’s Dream. At the core of the divine dream lies the famous passage from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…” At the heart of God’s Dream is found the fiery incandescence, the brilliant beauty, the overwhelming awesomeness of God’s radiant Love.
As the psychiatrist and spiritual writer, Dr. Gerald May, wrote: “The universe itself runs on an energy that is, at its core, unconditional loving … the love of the Creator for all creatures.” (adapted from Will and Spirit)
GOD IS LOVE! What could be clearer? To paraphrase the Episcopalian clergy- person Barbara Brown Taylor: “We live caught up in a vast web of relationships. God is not only responsible for this web of relationships - God is the unity at the center of this cosmic web, the very elegance and passion that makes is all happen.”
As a new elder, I wish to proclaim a piece of my dream. My dream is a dream of the God who loves us unconditionally. My dream is a dream of the God who is ALL LOVE, the God who is NEVER cruel, the God who NEVER kills, the God who NEVER punishes.
And, yes, this is the God who challenges us, the God who dreams precious dreams for each of us, the God of infinite patience. My experience of the Living God has taught me that God is not a God of War. My experience of the Living God has taught me that God is not a God of suicide bombers. My experience of the Living God has taught me that God is not a God of terrorists or violence-mongers.
My experience of the Living God is the God who so loved the world. My experience of the Living God is the God who was and is most clearly, most abundantly, revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And, yes, I know well that there are many places, many instances, in the Bible where God is mistakenly portrayed as a God of War, a God of divine destruction, a God of apocalyptic nightmares. But let me make it clear: the Bible does not come to us directly from the hand (or mouth) of God. The Bible came to us, having been filtered through the woundedness, the broken humanness, of many authors over many centuries. And we would well remember that there is but One True Word of God: the incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ.
My dream today is that we who are elders might keep dreaming dreams. My dream today is that our sons and daughters might embrace their call as prophets. My dream today is that our young will see visions - visions of what is and especially what can be with God’s assistance.
Being church (as the Greek New Testament word ecclesia notes) we are “those who are called out.” And, as such, it is ridiculous to divide the world into those who are ordained and those not ordained. We are all ordained! We are all anointed - to bring God’s Dream into reality - to touch each other and all creation with God’s loving touch.
Almighty Love will not let us go. Is Almighty Love done with me now that I’m an elder? Nonsense! Is Almighty Love done with the members of our precious congregation? Don’t be silly!
Let me end with a passage from Barbara Brown Taylor’s The Preaching Life: “Our job (as ministers/elders) is to stand with one foot on earth and one in heaven, with the double vision that is the gift of faith and to say out of our own experience that reality is not flat but deep, not opaque but transparent, not meaningless but shot full of grace for those with the least willingness to believe it so. This is our common call.
“It comes to each of us in a different way, calling for the particular gifts of our particular lives. And each of us is free to respond or play deaf.
“But God never stops calling. Lay any life out for close inspection and the truth becomes clear: God has called us from the womb and calls us still, the tireless shepherd who never stops calling us home” - and our home is found only in the Heart of Love. Amen!