Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Terrible Week... and a Dream

I've been leading a study of Genesis this winter and spring, and today we were looking at the story of Joseph. It's a complicated story, nothing like the one I remember from childhood Sunday School days where Joseph was a cardboard cut-out hero in a "coat of many colors."

In the actual events found in the Bible, the dream of God creates a great deal of tension, aggravating already difficult relationships between siblings. Joseph's brothers go so far as to attempt to kill him. They end up backing off that plan but still sell him as a slave, seemingly jeopardizing God's dream. But the story will eventually prove otherwise.

I find myself wondering about dreams in a week that has felt more like a nightmare to this point. The events of the week, the bombing at the Boston Marathon, fire and explosions in West, Texas, ricin laced letters mailed to the president and others, and the total inability of Congress to do anything meaningful against the scourge of gun violence in this country, all make a solid case for cynicism and for the foolishness of dreams. Worse, these events make it easy to dismiss those who march for peace, against guns, or for social programs rather than huge military budgets as naive idealists who just don't understand how the world really works.

Trouble is, followers of Jesus are called to be dreamers. We are bearers of a dream Jesus called the Kingdom, a new realm or dominion where wolves and lambs lie down together. Jesus says that the dream has drawn near in him, and when the Church is born at Pentecost by the gift of the Spirit, Peter says this is fulfillment of the prophet Joel's dream, a day when God's Spirit is poured out on all people, "and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." O to dream some dreams.

I've always love the old John Lennon song "Imagine." Some people of faith dislike it because it asks us to imagine no heaven, no hell, no religion. Both those are the easy things to do. They are not the reasons Lennon embraces the label others use to dismiss him, "a dreamer." It is imagining no greed or hunger, all people living together as one, that makes him a true dreamer. And such dreams put him squarely in the company of prophets and a Messiah, people who speak ridiculous dreams and call us to share them with the world.

As a terrible week draws, hopefully, to a quiet close, there is much evidence that speaks of the foolishness of dreams. But if ever we need dreams, it is now. And if the church will not be the bearer of dreams it is called to be, then, no doubt, God will find others to carry the dream forward.

Pour out your Spirit, O God.

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