31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
May 16, 2021
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
There are so many good reasons not to dream: We are too tired. We are too busy just trying to survive. Don’t dream because you might fail; you might disappoint yourself and others. Dreaming takes too much work – and remember, we are already too tired and busy. And most importantly, don’t dream because dreaming takes risk. Dreaming asks us to risk our time, our money, our reputations, peace of mind and security.
Most of our reasons not to dream revolve around fear. Fear of failing, fear of disappointing, fear of losing, fear of risking. God does not want us to live in fear though. Throughout the Bible, God and Jesus are always telling people ‘Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid because fear keeps us standing still when God is calling us forward. Do not be afraid because fear keeps us locked in old patterns when God is seeking to make us new. Do not be afraid because fear keeps us from saying yes when Jesus invites us to follow him. The journey of discipleship, the journey of faithfulness is a journey of risk.
God and Jesus tell us, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Fear is powerful though. Fear takes over and locks us in the primitive reptilian part of our brains where we can only eat, breathe, fight, or run. That’s all that part of our brain knows how to do. We need to move up into our mammalian or middle brain to feel emotions like love as well as connection, and then higher still to get to the part of the brain which knows how to imagine, to dream.
It’s not that we want to live in fear. It’s not that we want to only focus on survival. We want to lift our eyes up and see the love, the joy, the hope, the possibility all around us. It’s a lot of work though. It’s hard to lift our eyes up from always looking around for danger. We’ve gotten in the habit of looking down on the floor for crumbs, instead of looking up to see the lavish buffet of God’s possibility. We’ve trained our eyes to focus on one foot in front of the other, following the same unhealthy, unhappy path that we have been walking for years. We’ve grown used to these ways. How we do lift our eyes up to God and dream?
There is no perfect moment to look up. There is no just right moment to dream. Next week is Pentecost and we will hear how the disciples were aimlessly sitting around, at a loss as to what to do next, when the Holy Spirit came and filled them, igniting their gifts and dreams for ministry. Peter quotes the prophet Joel sharing that this is the moment, the right moment for your sons and daughters to prophesy, your young men to see visions and your old men to dream dreams.
The disciples had been aimless and uncertain when the Holy Spirit called them to dream. The prophet Joel’s people had been devastated by a plague of locusts that wiped out their food supply over night. The people that the Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah encouraged to dream and be open to the new that God was doing, had been captured, seen their homes and city reduced to rubble, and then been transported to Babylon – for 70 plus years.
God doesn’t wait for the perfect time; God doesn’t even wait until everything is calm and secure; God works in all times for good. God works in all times, even those of plague and pandemic, for blessing.
As God did for the people of Israel exiled to Babylon, as God did for Joel’s people devastated by a plague of locusts, as God did for a rag tag band of Jesus followers, as God does for us, God works to restore, to renew, to inspire our dreams and creativity in every time and situation.
Sometimes, though, those dreams take time, time to form, time to bear fruit. God’s renewal, God’s restoration, God’s dream is like planting seeds. In faith, we sow. Sometimes, we plant with joy and expectation, and sometimes, in doubt, despair even, listlessly tossing seeds here and there, without any hope of what might come of them, wondering if it will be worth the risk, worth the time, worth the effort – and then we discover with shouts of joy, that wonders of wonders, the harvest is so abundant we can barely carry it all home.
It is hard to dream. There are lots of reasons not to dream, and yet, God calls us to dream. God created us to dream. God wants us to use our imaginations and partner in the new that God is doing in our lives.
How do we dream though? How do we lift our eyes up from the ground, from survival, from the worn path we are used to traveling, and embrace the new that God is doing in our lives? How do we dream?
Rooted in Christ’s love, grounded in God, breathing deeply of the Holy Spirit (especially breathing deeply because deep breaths free us from fear), we begin to dream by lifting our eyes up just a bit. Just a small dream.
I cannot guess as to what that small dream might look like in your life. Is it going to the store? Going to eat in a restaurant? Coming into the Sanctuary for worship? Lift your eyes up to God and dream a small dream.
And then, we lift our eyes a bit higher. We get a bit bolder and more imaginative. We make plans to see family and friends. We make plans to travel. We try a new recipe, a new activity, a new style.
And with each dream imagined, with each dream fulfilled, we lift our eyes up even higher and higher until we read in the newspaper about 50 Afghani girls who were bombed and killed because they dared to go to school, because they dreamed of being educated, and our dream becomes bringing one, two, three Afghani girls over to the United States so they can be safe to fulfill their dreams.
Or our dream begins more locally, because of something that happens in our own family and close circle. For example, instead of becoming frustrated and upset at the lack of care, the lack of dignity that our loved one with special circumstances is encountering, instead, we dream. We dream of a group home, like the Friends of New Milford, where the residents are empowered to be a part of the decisions about who lives with them and is a part of their life and community.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t get trapped in one of those reasons to not dream. Don’t let fear hold you back from the new that God is doing in your life and in our world.
Be rooted in Jesus; Ground yourself in God; Breathe deeply of the Holy Spirit; Be connected to the vine. Be inspired by the image from Psalm 126 of the dry wadi, the dry streambed. At first look, the wadi is a wasteland, a dry, barren place where living things are unlikely to survive. Then we lift our eyes, we lift our eyes to God, and we see – we see the water flowing down, filling this dry streambed, restoring life, restoring hope and possibility.
And “our mouth[s are] filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:2) and we know that even though it takes time, even though it takes patience, even though it takes a lot of effort and faith, still we know that when we lift our eyes up from survival, from how we’ve always done things, when we lift our eyes up to God in hope, dreams can be fulfilled – maybe not in the way we expected, maybe not in our expected time period, still scripture tells us, our hearts tell us, that when we are bold enough to dream, faithful enough to dream, the day will come when we return home with shouts of joy and arms filled with blessings.
God is calling each one of us – today is the day to live expectantly. Today is the day to dream.