Year A, 2nd Sunday after Christmas
The Reverend Dr. Brent Was
January 5, 2014
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream…”
It is good to be back after a week and a half out of the office. I think the state of things, at least inside, have been indicative of my need for a wee spell away. There has been a lot going on around here, a few hiccups down at opportunity village, I dropped like 15 different balls around the Epiphany service tomorrow night. To those whom I have inconvenienced, I apologize. But I am back now, rested, spirit renewed and spine steeled for our ongoing work together in and for the Kingdom of God.
Two of my friends from Divinity School, two of my very best friends in the world actually, came and visited over New Years. Chris is a pastor serving a church down in Sonoma County and Will is in Oakland, serving as a youth minister/monastic. Each of us have been in transitional moments in our lives as of late. Willie is getting married next year and is finding vocation in a dispersed monastic order, a bit like Brother Kevin Gore. Chris started a 7-month sabbatical on New Years day in Jasper just as his family is undergoing deep changes. The bishop says that you aren’t really somewhere until you have two Christmases there. We’re on # 2 in Jasper and are settling in to the idea and actuality of being settled here. And I am settling in to being your rector, and with that change of station I am beginning to encounter and confront some of the conflict and deeper issues of this community, which turns 50 this March. It is very exciting. We’ve never been this big before, never raised this much money, never had this kind of reach into the community, never had such communal depth of commitment to the life of Jesus Christ, and moving into this new territory is scary, it is not all going great, some balls are being dropped as new systems develop of we realize that new systems need to be developed. This is change happening and I for one don’t know how to manage all this change, none of us do, yet, and that is not going to stop us. We will be successful. We are going to make it through this transition to being the embassy of the Kingdom of God we are intended to be, together. We are going to shine the light of Christ into the world as we are intended to do, together. We are going to realize our God-given potential, together. That is my dream for this place, and it is the dream that is shared by a lot of people here in this place, and more and more all the time. Two hundred and seventy people celebrated the birth of Christ here last week. And, there are a lot of people in the wider community that are watching and hoping that we succeed, dreaming of the church as servant to broken people in a broken world. And of course there are the dreams that God has for us, too.
It was good sitting around a table, walking in the woods and on the beach with old friends all of us in the midst of change. Remembering the past, pondering the present, dreaming of the future. It is the New Year, and New Years is a moment to take stock, it is a mile-marker on the long road of time that can help us make meaning of our lives, of our world.
God has dreams of us, for us… something like that. When we talk to the girls about our lives before they were born, we describe it as the time when “you were still just a dream in our hearts.” They were an intention, a will that was there with none of the specifics, none of the details filled in, the dreams didn’t even always rise to the level of consciousness. That is how I imagine God dreams of us. I don’t know if God dreams in specifics; like, I don’t know if God intends for us to be in certain places at certain times, or intends for us to do certain things. I suspect God’s dreams are not like that. To many bad things happen to too many people to make that likely. I have, many of us have experienced providential moments… had that one conversation been missed, that one chance meeting averted and we can imagine everything would be different. That can be interpreted as divine providence, the hand of God at work in the world. Had I not gone on one overnight seminary retreat to the monastery in West Newbury, I don’t know for sure that I would be Episcopalian now. If I hadn’t met Windy by that bonfire 27 years ago… if you hadn’t, what, gone to that dance, went to that college, moved out of your parent’s house when you did… where would you be now? What would be different now for you? I don’t know if God puts us in specific places at specific times for specific purposes, but I do know that we are blessed with the deep power of making meaning of our situations. And we are blessed with deep power to discern where it is we ARE supposed to be, what we are supposed to be doing. We are blessed with the power to discern God’s dreams of us, for us, our communities and the world. Dreams.
Joseph had dreams. What dreams! Mary’s unique pregnancy, travel across Galilee, an amazingly dramatic birth, then the wise men from the east came bearing gifts… A lot for a landless peasant from central Galilee to process. And then this, this dream, an angel tells Joseph to take his family and flee for their lives to Egypt because the king was coming for them. There are prophecies about this. What is Joseph to do? That last time he encountered an angel in a dream, Jesus came about. Now the boy was born, and another dream, just as important as that first one comes. He had no choice, he followed the dream all the way to Egypt.
God dreams of us, for us, too. This dream of God is revealed to us in so many, many ways, and most potently, often, in your own dreams, much like Joseph’s, though usually, thankfully less dramatic. What do you dream of? What do you dream of in your life? I’m not talking about dreams of a million dollar windfall, or a dream home, those are ghosts of dreams. A dream of having what you need, of not being in poverty, of having a home to call you own, that’s legit, but not unaccountable wealth. What do you dream of? Finding true love? Leaving that anxiety/depression/angst/grief behind? Sobriety? What do you dream of? Deeper relationships? To become more outward looking? To become more introspective? To be less worried, more concerned? What do you dream of? Health? Meaningful work? Fulfilment? Wisdom? Patience? If… money and time were not a concern, what would your dream be? What do you dream of in your life?
What dreams do you have for Resurrection? To grow and bring more and more people into God’s fold? To keep it small, but go deeper and deeper? Do you dream that we come together to be challenged and inspired to offer servant-leadership across Eugene? Do you dream of a community, a church family to find home within, a place for friends and fun? What do you dream of for Resurrection? Do you dream of a pavilion out in front, an expansion of our overcrowded space? That dream is chugging along towards realization. Do you dream of learning more here, growing in Christ here, serving God revealed in the faces of the suffering here? What dreams do you have for Resurrection?
What dreams do you have for the world? Do you dream of a return to vitality and viability of our economy and environment? Do you dream of retrograde economics, how we shrink down to a reasonable, sustainable or at least survivable size? Do you dream of healthcare for all? housing for all? For peace on earth, good will towards everyone, to Guantanamo and drones going the way of the DDT? Do you dream of better indoor air quality for billions of people across the world like Dean Still does? Or of a vibrant local economy as Kim Still does? That was in the paper. What dreams do you have for the world?
God’s will is revealed everyday, to each of us. God’s voice is on the wind as it blows, in the angle of the light on the clouds at sunset, in the creaking of the firs in wind and we encounter that will when those things inspire us, fill us with awe, drench us in beauty. God’s will can be revealed in what you are good at, in what you enjoy doing, in scripture, art and scholarship. And most commonly, most convincingly from the time of the prophets in days of old through right this very moment, God’s will, God’s dream of us and the world is revealed in our dreams, in your dreams. What do you dream of in your life? What dreams do you have for Resurrection? What dreams do you have for the world? Search, and God’s dream, God’s will shalll be revealed. AMEN.