given on Sunday, January 9, 2010
“If you aren’t dreaming, you must be dead.” Those words are just driving me nuts. Max shared this saying with me after last week’s service, and those words have just boiled up in my mind all week long—I knew they had to be used this week. The question was how. How do I take a line like that and find what God is saying to me—to us? “If you aren’t dreaming, you must be dead.” I found myself trying out different ways to use it. Then I put a slight twist to the words: If the church is not dreaming, the church must be dead.
Maybe Max’s dad had a profound guiding principle by which to live his life. Maybe Max’s dad had a message for the church, too. If you aren’t dreaming, you must be dead.
The first step was to figure out what is dreaming. The on-line dictionaries had some answers. [Look at the back of your bulletin.] The noun dream alone has eight descriptors according to dictionary.com (*the primary noun definitions which apply to today’s sermon):
* 1. a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep.
2. the sleeping state in which this occurs.
3. an object seen in a dream.
* 4. an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake.
5. a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake; daydream; reverie.
* 6. an aspiration; goal; aim
7. a wild or vain fancy.
8. something of an unreal beauty, charm, or excellence.
The definitions lead to a related question: What is the purpose of dreaming? A renowned dream specialist, Patricia Garfield (who has spent 49 years writing down her own dreams) studies dreams and then writes about them:
From an evolutionary point of view there have been speculations that dreams have evolved to periodically make sure that everything is working in the central nervous system and to be alert, alerted in a way that one could be responsive to danger in an environment. . . . The current thinking is that dreaming is an important component of memory and that we do know that when people are learning new things, . . . . Dreaming increases when we’re learning new tasks, and if we’re prevented from dreaming after we’ve learned something new, our memory for it is very poor. . . . the bottom line is we truly don’t know why we dream.
Dr. Garfield may not have defined a purpose for dreams, but she certainly does stir up discussion. To continue building the logical argument that dreaming is important even for our churches; we need to understand how they work. The answer can be found in the quotes that may or may not be familiar:
- A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline. – Harvey Mackay
- Goals are dreams we convert to plans and take action to fulfill – Zig Ziglar
There is the purpose: we must dream first. The next step then is figuring out a plan, followed by carrying out the plan.
If we look back at the Bible, we can identify who dreams? Who is responsible for us having a mental image of the world as it could be? God did, and then he created the heavens and the earth. He created his dream of a peaceful, abundant world in which people lived in harmony. God shared that dream with his creations, Adam and Eve. And they failed to follow God’s law. If only they had embraced God’s dream!
Instead, God’s people took the gift of free will and developed different visions. Even though they knew God’s dream, they dared to dream their own. Conflict developed between God’s vision of a peaceful world and humans’ visions for the earthly world.
Throughout the generations, prophets worked to share God’s dreams with the people, but the people still did not follow God’s laws. Even Harriet Tubman, a 19th century American slave, knew God’s dreams. She believed and shared the value of dreaming as a powerful force:
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.–Harriet Tubman
Tubman dreamed, created a plan, and acted to the best of her ability to transform the world. Even our Methodist heritage reflects God’s dream: “Make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.” The dream keeps us focused.
Therefore, we need to dream. Turning to Dr. Garfield, the answer begins to develop:
As long as you’re dreaming about it (a traumatic experience) and even if the dreams are horrific, your mind is working on it. . . . My personal opinion about what dreams do is that they are an adapter for us, that they help us solve our problems.
Throughout the Bible, we read how dreamers or the prophets tried to prepare the faithful for what was to come, especially if they followed God’s law. Following God’s law creates a dream of a peaceful world filled with people loving one another.
Even after the 2300 years recorded in the Old Testament, God did not give up his dream and decided to move into action. He sent his son Jesus Christ to demonstrate how loving one another can successfully transform the world. The New Testament is filled with stories of visionaries who believed in God’s dreams and spread the news of the New Covenant. Are we ready to continue the work? Do we see God’s dream, too? Do we have a plan to continue the job?
The answer is we must follow God’s dream, set goals, and create a plan to transform the world. Remember what other visionaries have said:
- Hope is the dream of the waking man.—French Proverb
- All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.—Norman Vincent Peale.
We have a responsibility to dream, to set goals and to create a plan to follow Christ. We have to evaluate what we have done in the past; and then we must turn around and decide what we envision. We need to dream how to fulfill God’s dream for his people and his world.
Today, we start with reviewing. Take the cards in the bulletin or on the tables or in the entryway. Read over them, reflect, pray, and fill them out. We need to share our ideas if we are to remain alive. During the rest of the month, we need to dream. We need to set goals. We need to develop a plan that will work for us.
Maybe the dream is to grow spiritually first, to identify what knowledge we still need to learn. Perhaps we need to find new ways to learn. Maybe we have to make a personal commitment to God. If we take just one step forward this year, the next step might be easier next year. The only way to be accountable though is to write it down, to share, and to post if for all to see repeatedly. One quote says it all even though the author of it is unknown:
Write it down. Written goals have a way of transforming wishes into wants; cant’s into cans; dreams into plans; and plans into reality. Don’t just think it—ink it!
Driving east on Hwy 50 there is a billboard. Granted the topic is not suppose to be dreams but abortion, yet the power of the possibilities as children of God seems overwhelming: a picture of a baby with these words—“I dreamed even before I was born”: an idea, dreamed about what life is and when it begins, shared, and inked. Will it make a difference? Surely it will for at least one. And if it changes just one person’s understanding, wasn’t it worth the effort?
Let’s take the challenge to dream, to set goals, and to work out a plan so God’s dream becomes reality. Les Brown said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Surely we can dream. Surely we are not too old. We definitely are not dead.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We are filled with dreams, but we have not figured out what to do about them. Let us work together to find ways to fulfill our dreams. Give us the wisdom to set reasonable goals. Give us the knowledge and the strength to find ways to reach those goals. Let us be alive in Christ! –Amen