Wednesday, May 05, 2010

What dreams may come

Robin Williams in the 1998 film What Dreams May Come

Acts 11:1-18; Revelation 21: 1-6
******** United Church of Christ
May 2, 2010

In the movie “What Dreams May Come” a man’s experience of heaven comes from the canvases of his wife’s art. From her imagination and his devotion to her, we see realms of glorious color, wild fantasy, heartrending beauty and unspeakable wonder. In this vision of heaven, humankind’s role as co-creator with God comes alive with vivid scenes of splendor woven together from the imaginations of heaven’s citizens.

from the film What Dreams May Come (1998)

The reading from the book of Revelation gives us another view of the new heaven and new earth, and its center is the new Jerusalem, no longer estranged from the ways of God but now adorned for God as a bride for a husband. In this new Jerusalem, death and mourning and crying will be no more, for the first things have passed away. This is good news indeed for the Jerusalem of today and for all cities where death and mourning and pain are the way of life for its citizens.

We all have images and dreams of what heaven will be like, of who we will see, what we might experience or at least from what we will be free. Over the course of human history, whenever the future has seemed bleak at best, our dreams of heaven have been at their strongest. And we can only dream of heaven because none of us really knows what it will be like. Even that resurrected Jesus, doggone it, didn’t really say a concrete word about what heaven is like. You’d think he’d want to put our minds at ease. No. Instead, he wanted us to put our faith to work.

Peter too has a heavenly vision, but it’s more about a new earth than a new heaven; perhaps more about heaven on earth. In this vision God reveals something that at the time was unimaginable, that salvation is not only for a few but for all, even for those who were thought to be unclean and unworthy. God’s big dream, the Spirit’s fervent hope, Jesus’ simple prayer, that they may all be one, means all and one. There’s no equivocating, no loopholes, no hedge bets.

Peter's Vision by Doug Jaques, Austin, TX

And no, it doesn’t and shouldn’t put our minds at ease. It puts our faith to work and demands that we dream big with God. How will we co-create this new Jerusalem, this heaven on earth, this new city of God, with one another and with God? How might you, ******** United Church of Christ, be faithful to your traditions and history and yet leave room for the Holy Spirit, for dreams and imagination to give you a vision for your future? How might you be hindering God’s big dream for you?

There’s so much more I could say about this, about dreaming with God and all of us using our imaginations to envision what this community of faith could be and can be. Instead I want to invite you, during the time of reflection, to begin to create a vivid picture of this church’s future: what the church looks like inside and out, who is here, what is happening, and how do you feel, what are you doing in that picture. I invite you to take time each and every day to add more color and detail and texture to that picture and to make that your prayer during this interim time.

Each of you will have a slightly different picture, but if you choose to adopt your purpose statement, that ******** United Church of Christ dares to reveal God’s unconditional love by accepting and welcoming all people, through joyful and creative worship, faithful service, and spiritual growth, and if you use that purpose statement as the foundation for your picture, I think what each of you imagines for this church will be very similar indeed. I also encourage you to share your vision, your picture of this church with your sisters and brothers and with others.

Dream big, ******** UCC; dream God’s big dream, that dream of all and one. You’ve already begun to create a little piece of heaven on earth. How might you extend that piece of heaven to others who need to experience the good news of all and one? God has promised that the good work begun in you will be brought to completion. What a sweet dream indeed. Amen.

(This was a particularly full service: receiving of new members, two by baptism, and communion, hence, a briefer sermon. Funny, no one seemed to mind.)

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