This is a sermon about dreaming I preached a few weeks ago while we were still in Easter season. Since we are praying and thinking about our vision at St. Paul, I thought it would be good to post it here. The phrase “Lamb power” comes from Barbara Rossing; we’ve been using it at St. Paul since she spoke at our Synod Assembly a few years ago. You can find it in her book “The Rapture Exposed” in the chapter called Lamb Power. Here’s the sermon.
In some parts of the world,
the dream you had last night,
is the most important thing for you today.
And among those peoples,
the first thing someone might say
upon rising is not “good morning,”
but “what did you dream?”
And sometimes, if the dream
was hard to understand,
the whole community might sit down together
around the morning fire,
and try and interpret your dream.
Biblical writers would agree with them,
both in their interest in dreams,
and in their practice of using them,
to guide this waking life.
In the bible, God sends dreams and visions
to help us on our path.
Like the Dreamtime of Aboriginal peoples,
the dreams and visions God sends
are serious events, holy,
mysterious and provocative.
As we see
in our lessons today,
dreams and visions come down from heaven
to instruct and help.
They break in with uncanny wonder.
and testify to the life of the Spirit within us.
They often reveal God’s purpose for us.
They are a sign of God’s good will for us,
and God’s justice and peace,
for this beautiful world.
The angels at Jesus’ birth sing the same
undending hymn they sing
around the throne of the Lamb in Revelation.
In our biblical stories,
dreams and visions function as teachers,
inspiring the dreamers to new ventures in faith.
Dreams come with transformative power.
Think of all the biblical figures
who have encountered God
in uncanny dreamscapes.
Abraham hears a voice out under the night sky;
Jacob dreams of a heavenly ladder;
Moses’ encounters a burning bush;
angels bear messages.
Prophets announce God’s love and God’s judgment;
Ezekiel sees a wheel of fire.
Seraphs appear to Isaiah, and purify his words with burning coals.
Biblical rulers and kings sought the wisdom gleaned
from the interpretations of dreams of seers like Daniel
and Joseph. Mary and Joseph listened
to their visions—A dream directed the three wise kings.
Visions and voices direct Paul and Ananais in Acts to find each other.
Today we hear two accounts in Acts
and Revelation, of a dream and a vision.
The writers of scripture took
their inner worlds, the workings
of the religious imagination seriously.
Perhaps these texts can help us access some of the wisdom
God gives us, in our intuitions, dreams, hopes, and visions.
Biblical dreamers and visionaries
wrestle with their religious experiences,
until they gain wisdom, insight, perspective, and clarity.
And dreams sometimes resolve conflict.
Peter, responding to critics,
justifies staying in a non-Jewish home
by describing a dream
that will shape Christianity forever.
His is a revelation of
God’s all inclusive love.
The dream is for everyone, Peter realizes,
and he uses it in preaching the freedom
of the children of God.
His dream is a teaching for the church,
a communal dream.
Peter is able to lead with clarity because of it;
he discerns the direction God wants his people to go.
The voice from heaven, in Peter’s dream,
instructs him to eat. Peter with humility,
objects at first, and then remembers who God is.
Peter may sit down with anyone.
The Lamb has come for everyone.
The Holy Spirit has fallen on all people,
Peter discovers the freedom of the children of God.
God’s saving grace in Christ,
takes down fences that divide us, undoes distinctions—
Peter’s dream reveals God’s radical grace,
God’s radical welcome for all.
Make no distinction.
Our second vision this morning,
comes again from the Book of Revelation.
This is the fifth in the series we’ve been hearing
all of Easter. John the Seer’s waking dream, too,
like Peter’s vision in Acts,
is for the whole church,
in every place and time.
For it is about the nature of God,
and how God is with us.
The beautiful language of Revelation
evokes again for us the scene of God’s majesty
and the throne of God.
The meaning of Easter unfolds in Revelation
and we celebrate
the power of the Lamb of God,
who is victorious over death.
We’ve seen and heard, with John,
people of every nation, tribe, race, and speaking every language
surround the throne of the Lamb singing hymns of praise.
Today’s portion comes near the end of the vision.
The Lamb in the center of the throne of God,
our Lamb of God, Jesus, is someone
who uses his power to give life,
to heal the broken-hearted,
to comfort the sorrowful.
Here, in this vision,
God, we are told, makes his home with us,
dwells with us, sents up his tent among us.
He makes himself present among us here and now.
God heals every hurt, wiping away every tear.
These are the signs of “Lamb power” at work,
a new heaven, a new earth, a new Jerusalem,
the former things have passed away,
a new reality has arrived.
If you wonder what the secret of Lamb power is,
Jesus announces that secret in the Gospel lesson.
Lamb power is nothing more and nothing less
than the power of loving,
loving in a divine way, that transcends our
habits of making distinctions, of drawing lines in the sand,
of saying you come near, but not you.
Here, in the Gospel, Jesus gives us new commandment,
“beloved, love one another just as I have loved you.”
Lamb power is at work in Peter’s dream in Acts
as he discovers that God’s promises are for all people.
God’s inclusive welcome extends
beyond the boundaries of the small band of apostles,
all of whom were Jewish, like Jesus.
They are learning, here, in Acts,
that Christ came for all people.
Those around the throne of God, in Revelation
are people from all nations, all languages, all tribes,
all races—no one is left out.
This is who we are to be as community—
open, inclusive, loving, renewing,
with a song of praise at the center of our life.
We all know people in our own
lives, and generations
who have caught hold of God’s dream,
some of them mystics,
some of them justice seekers,
some of them mercy doers.
Perhaps God has spoken to you, or is speaking to you
in the language of dream, or poetry, or music,
or art, or through some other channel of your imaginative life.
Even daydreams offer the potiential
to reveal meaningful glimpses of who God calls us to be.
These texts help us to ask ourselves what is God dreaming
for us? What new thing is God doing in our midst,
in our lives. What do we need to shed in order
to move that direction? What do we need to take up
to help us on our way?
God leads us out of who are, into something new.
That’s resurrection life—it’s not a return
to the old, or a restoration of the past—
resurrection life is utterly new, a new heaven
and a new earth, a new Jerusalem.
No situation ends in hopelessness or despair,
because those things are not the final truth.
Resurrection life is an open life,
the tomb is open, the stone rolled away.
The waters of the springs of life
that God promises flow at the center of our lives.
Today’s dream in Acts and the vision in Revelation
are glimpses into God’s way of being and doing.
—Behold I am making all things new,
There are no fences, no distinctions,
God’s inclusive love is offered
as a gift to everyone—here where we live,
here and now,
God is already living among us.
God has come to make God’s home with us,
wherever we are.
Lamb power has come to stay
in the vulnerable love we share with each other.
This bond, Jesus says,
mirrors the love God offer us in Christ..
Love one another as I have loved you,
in the here and now.
God isn’t out there somewhere else,
God is here in our midst, actively healing,
actively renewing, repairing, restoring.
What sacred hope or holy desire is flowering in your life?
What are you dreaming?
What are we dreaming together?
Whatever it is, it will be a dream born of God’s
mysterious, wonderful, life-giving love.