First Congregational Church
June 5, 2022
“Dreaming God’s Dreams”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
When trains were popular transportation there was a little girl who was taking her first train ride with her parents. As night descended, the mother took the girl, who was clearly quite anxious and placed her on the upper bunk of the sleeper. She told her little one that up there she would be nearer to God and that God would watch over her.
As silence enveloped the young lady she became afraid and called softly, "Momma, are you there?” "Yes dear," came the response. A little later, in a louder voice, the child called, "Daddy, are you there, too?” "Yes dear," was the reply.
After this had been repeated several times one of the passengers sharing their sleeper car finally lost his patience and shouted loudly, "Yes, we're all here, your father, your mother, your brother, and all your aunts and cousins; now settle down and go to sleep!"
There was a moment of silence and then, in hushed tones, a little voice asked, "Momma, was that God?"
In a like manner, one could imagine the disciples asking the same question on a particular day, a couple of thousand years ago in Jerusalem. It was a big day, a feast day that commemorated the Passover of the Angel of Death a thousand years before, as well as being the Festival of Harvest, also known as the Feast of Weeks when sheaves of winter barley were brought to the temple each day between the Passover and Shavout - the beginning of the harvest season. Because the festival was fifty days long, it has become known as the Jewish Pentecost. As one of three major festivals, this one was also known as a pilgrim festival because it required that all Jewish males observe it at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment,
because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine. " Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: " 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
Thank you, Jeanne. As I was doing my homework for this message, I came across a sermon title, “The Howling,” by Lori Wagner, and well, you know I couldn’t let that one go by.
She starts her message, “This isn’t a story about wolves, although it sounds like it could be. It isn’t even a tale about noises in the night or a particularly powerful storm. It’s a ghost story. A true story. A relaying of unexpected events within a room full, no a town full, of people with a boatload of witnesses, an experience that defied all reality, a recorded testimony about an unexplained, uncanny manifestation of a Spirit that not only spooked those present but changed their lives completely thereafter. A phenomenon so weird that it startled an entire city and started an entire movement.” I think that is actually a really good way of understanding that famous day.
Ms. Wagner did’t say “It was a dark and stormy night,” because it was daytime, but she did lift up the idea of a tornado or a foghorn, loud, low, and deep to shake the shutters. And while her description is nice and all, I think it’s more important to dive into its meanings.
When thinking about or dealing with the Day of Pentecost, sometimes another particular day comes to mind. We may have heard of the Tower of Babel, but it may have been a while since we visited it. The Bible doesn’t use that title for the tower that would 1. be the focus of a city built by humans with a single language that would 2. explain the existence of so many different languages, when confusion and disunity came in to play .
There is an element of bringing sameness back to God’s people - through Passover - in that those there that day became the same in mission, as followers of Christ and witnesses to faith. But it wasn’t so much sameness as understanding. The mention of all those names of people groups represented at least six different languages, and none of the people lost their native tongues but understood the message through those languages.
It’s not just understanding the words of what might have happened that day back then, but because of our relationship to Christ, as brothers and sisters, it is the understanding of our heart, mind and soul, too. As siblings of the King of Kings, we might be tempted to have a top-down look at this event and this day. Except, that it’s a horizontal understanding that invites us to the honor and undertaking of purpose in sync with Christ’s mission.
If we are honest, sometimes our prayers are a little more about control than they are about God’s desire. Maybe a lot more often than we’d like to admit. Today reminds us that we yield our “needs” to have life on our terms, to join our hearts and minds to dream God’s dreams.
And what dreams - from this passage - understanding through differences, the miraculous, and that seemingly impossible - happening on a day when our focus may be elsewhere. Dreams - of more than expected - happening at one point, against the backdrop of history - to something greater, far bigger than what we might have imagined - with repercussions that ripple far into the future - far past our own lives or generations.
At any point in history, we might be tempted to say that “this” is the worst time - in the 1940s, in the 1860s, in the 1770s, and on back. It certainly seems like we are in the midst of some hard times - and we are. But we are also people who stand in the legacy of a God who dreamt of us for so long, of a people that would do amazing things through faith. So on this day, as we celebrate dreaming God’s dreams, we bring part of those dreams to life as we share the gift Christ gave us in our Lord’s Supper.
Our taste buds operate differently, our body systems digest differently, our hands dip the bread into the cup differently, but it is the same meal - not just here - but all over the world, when we take time to recall the
night when Jesus took bread and gave thanks, took
the cup and gave thanks for it.
Let us pray. God of all time and dreams, we thank you for this day as well as that day as described in the book of Acts and all the other days throughout time. We thank you for that place where time doesn’t matter and where we all will live in your dream more perfectly. Forgive us and help us to avoid giving in to temptation of hierarchy or betterment and inspire us to delight and flourish in differences. Thank you for this meal that reminds us of the vividness of your dreams of us living as your people and may it sustain us in the days ahead, as we strive to be the people you have always dreamt us to be. And all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.