I wonder what Jesus dream was – for himself, for the “movement” of calling disciples and inviting everyone to walk the way into healing and compassion and mercy and prophetic ministry? What was his dream? For himself, his fully human life in the midst of his manifestation as God’s living Word? What was his dream the week before he entered Jerusalem for the final time?
Do we have a dream? For ourselves, our church, our world?
Dreams, by definition, seem meant to be unreachable. I may dream of world peace, but what can I do to help us get there? I may dream of a day when no child is hungry or food insecure, but how can I make a difference in that reality? I may dream of a day when we decide that how we treat one another, including those with whom we disagree, has a foundation in the love of God that welcomes all, but what if my enemy doesn’t share the same dream? The complexity of finding realistic ways of living together in difference; of finding witnesses, leaders who see beyond the is to the ought, seems unrealistic in this day and time. How do we not succumb to our least selves when we are stressed or threatened or fearful? How do we stand firm in our faith to understand that finally killing our enemy is actually doing more damage to our own souls than to theirs?
Do you have a dream? An expansive vision that reaches beyond the limits of what reality tells you is possible? What kept Jesus moving forward that week before he entered Jerusalem for the final time? Was it his dream for the world?
Martin Luther King, Jr., has the most famous words about a dream . . . “I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream . . . I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” He was assassinated for the work he did and the words he spoke and what he represented of change coming in the world. Without the dream, would change occur?
Do you have a dream? One of those far-reaching beyond the boundary visions for which you would be willing to stand and maybe even sacrifice – your position, your independence, your ability to fit in and be liked? I wonder what Jesus’ vision included as he moved through the Hosannas and the palm-strewn pathway toward the upper room?
The 74th anniversary Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s death was yesterday, April 9. He was hung on that date in 1945 even as the Nazi regime was falling. As a Lutheran pastor at the start of Hitler’s rise to power, he spoke forcefully against the foundations and tenets of Hitler’s worldview. Bonhoeffer’s dream was not of a master race made up of white Christian able-bodied heterosexuals, Hitler’s dream was. Bonhoeffer’s dream was not the extinction of the Jewish religious system and families, Hitler’s was. As a white Christian well-educated male, Bonhoeffer could have lived beside the hate of Hitler without putting his life at risk. He could have stayed in the United States where he had a teaching position with the Union Theological seminary in New York City, but his statement to Reinhold Niebuhr upon taking the last scheduled steam-ship from the United States back to Germany during World War II was, “Christians in Germany will have to face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying Christian civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make that choice from security.” Was his dream to die on the gallows without seeing hatred and genocide defeated? Absolutely not, but as he also famously said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Do you have a dream? One that is more focused on others that you don’t know, than yourself or those that you do? Does it speak to the future you hope the world will have beyond your own lifetime? I wonder how Jesus envisioned communities of faith in generations beyond his own? I wonder if he believed that, in the end, love would win?
We don’t know what Matthew Shepard’s dreams were, not really. He was a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie when he was beaten and tortured and left to die tied to a snow fence. He was 21 years old in 1998. What were your dreams when you were 21? Had they fully formed? Were you certain you could take on the world and bring about needed changes that the older generations didn’t understand? Were you certain about your life, career, relationships, a future filled with nothing less than the breadth and depth and beauty of the world? Or maybe most of us were simply trying to pass Chemistry or Algebra or English Comp 101. Matthew was gay before we’d even come to the point of tolerance that we’ve sort of reached now. Two kids his age pretended to be gay and his friends, and then robbed him of $20, beat him into a comatose state and left him to die. Dreams unrealized? Last year on the 20th anniversary of his death, his ashes were interred at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. in a service presided over the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. Matthew was Episcopalian, was he connected to that consecration? Maybe was his dream of simply living and believing he had a right to live as he was created, a part of a story that led to his church consecrating V. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay Episcopalian Bishop? Has that dream changed our reality? As United Methodists? Matthew’s mom Judy says this, “I feel it necessary to show this great nation that we live in, that there doesn’t need to be this kind of violence and hatred in our world. And that loving one another doesn’t mean that we have to compromise our beliefs; it simply means that we choose to be compassionate and respectful of others.” Matthew is interred near Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan; and U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey. The National Cathedral is also where I processed and was hooded with my doctoral degree in 2012, so it has a bit of a special place in my heart as part of my life’s dream was realized there.
Do you have a dream? Might it be more related than you can see right now, to God’s dream for the world through the living Word of Jesus? Might it be that how we choose to live, how we choose to speak and listen to each other, how we choose to peacefully stand for what we believe, is a part of God’s dream? It may be that it doesn’t always lead to a comfortable existence without turmoil or risk or fear or even hurt. But it may very well be that God’s presence in the midst of the journey is what keeps us moving forward toward whatever those consequences may bring.
I believe that Jesus’ dream for the world of his time, and God’s vision for the world beyond all time, helped give Jesus the strength keep moving toward Jerusalem for the final time. I believe it kept him living and loving his allies and his adversaries without destruction or violence even unto death.
Is it worth it? To have a dream that moves beyond limitations and boundaries and calls us to a future yet unwritten that is perhaps risky as well as abundant? I can only answer that for myself in my faith, as you have to for yours. Maybe in our answers lies a minute of grace, and maybe even a glimpse or two, this week before we enter Jerusalem, of resurrection.