How often and how well do you remember your dreams? Raise your hand if you seem to be super-dreamers, able to recall effortlessly your dreams in vivid detail almost every day. Raise your hand if you struggle to remember even a vague fragment or two.[i] Most of my life, I have been one of those people who never remember dreams. It wasn’t until probably the last few months, that I started to recall my night’s dreams. And they have been quite vivid and detailed. Every morning, I share with Dave what new things I did or said or experienced in my dreams and he generally rolls his eyes at me that my brain could come up with such odd stories.
I was reading a Washington Post article recently about dreams and why some people remember them while others don’t. In a study that was conducted a few years ago, it noted that a key component to recalling dreams required you to have are more wakeful, or restless sleep, so that when you wake even for a brief moment, your brain has time to encode the vision into your long-term memory. So clearly, in the last few months, I have had more restless sleep than I have previously, which is probably due to the fact that the four-legged creatures in our home have decided, despite the plenteous pet beds, chairs, and couches they could sleep on, they would rather sleep in our bed, right next to me. But good news is that because of them, I get to experience dreams.
Although quite familiar to us, our story this morning is sort of fantastical and dream-like, the people witnessing the event think everyone is drunk, but we tend to gloss over it as something nice, neat, or perhaps unusual at best. However, this is really not the case. The Holy Spirit swoops in with a mighty rushing wind, and begins burning above these people! Generally, we think of the Holy Spirit as the thing which eases our distress. She is the encourager and the comforter. She is there to remind us of Jesus’ presence and promise. This is all well and good, but if we really take a look at our story, the Holy Spirit is really far more radical and unpredictable! In our Pentecost story today, we experience a different unpredictable force, and a fire that is causes a burning passion to be ignited from within the people. In our story today, the Holy Spirit isn’t there really to comfort anyone, but rather there to shake things up. This Holy Spirit is there to testify, and to prompt the testimonies of the disciples.
Which is what we hear in the second part of our scripture, Peter begins to preach to the people. Peter reminds them of the words from 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…And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Peter reminds the people that God is a God of history, that on this day, Pentecost becomes a continuing and adding to the people of God. It is a day to recognize and bless the history of faith for the people of God. God’s Word was being heard, God’s Spirit was being shared, and God’s communion is being brought into existence among humanity here and now.
But now, as people of God, they are called to dream dreams.
Pentecost is an invitation to dream. Not necessarily the dreams we have when we sleep, but the dreams we envision of a life of what could be. A dream of possibilities. A dream of what would happen if. A dream of what-could-be when. These types of dreams are so important for churches and communities to do. Because when a community of faith quits dreaming dreams, it has little to offer either its members or the wider world.
Like any good dream, these dreams involve adopting a new perspective on what’s possible, rousing our creativity to free us from conventional expectations. These types of dreams help us to see that maybe what we thought was outlandish actually lies within reach. Maybe we can find freedom from what binds us. Maybe there can be justice. Maybe we can make a difference. Maybe a person’s value isn’t determined by her income. Maybe the future of our economy or our society or our church or our planet is not yet determined. Maybe God is here with us, even if our current struggles never go away. God’s dreams, and good dreams, need us to have fitful sleep, so they can shake us into consciousness to what the Spirit is calling us to do.
We might think, that church as it is, is enough, that life as it is, is enough. That we don’t need new dreams, and we would rather just have the deep sleep. We might think what we have now is enough, it is sufficient but what if it isn't?
It is on the day of Pentecost where we are called to be filled with the Spirit, to allow everyone to come up with dreams outside the realm of “but that’s the way we’ve always done it.” We are called to let the Spirit of God fill us with dreams of what could be.
We cannot mandate how, when, where, and to what extent God acts, God just acts. On Pentecost we see that the Spirit makes visible and tangible God’s promise to be present, to empower and to compel dreaming. The Spirit is there to move us forward, to take the preparations we have made and to transform them to the situations that are in our present midst. And this means that we have to begin to see God’s power differently and then we have to see change differently.
The Christian faith has its roster of exceptional dreamers, who, like Jesus, insisted that God could make possible the things that other people couldn’t see. Just in the last century gave us dreamer like Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Oscar Romero, name a few.
But dreams need not always be dramatic, and the prophetic task of describing how a new, God-given possibility is coming to life is not restricted to public figures with magnetic personalities.
The beautiful and most meaningful part of the story of Pentecost, is that ordinary people receive power. It’s not just the people who are the brightest, most talented or most promising, but our scripture says the everyday person: the slave, the woman, the man, the child, are filled with the Holy Spirit. So the power of the Spirit is given to all persons, young/old, conservative/liberal, poor/middle wage/rich, strong in faith/lost in belief, to you and to me. The power of the Spirit is emboldens people to imagine that they can live differently. Think differently, Act differently. The power of the Spirit is an awakened imagination to live the words of Jesus Christ in our day to day life, whether we run our own companies, or our own homes, whether we attend church on a regular basis or we attend when we get the energy to come. And even when the community’s dreams seem smaller, more localized or slower to develop, they can still be revolutionary.
As Christians, we could be a church that chooses to sleep deeply, to fear the restless sleep that produces wild and vivid dreams, and choose to stay in the church and the tradition that isn't completely relevant to the current culture. We could choose to stay indoors, fearful and anxious as to where the Spirit is leading us.
However, we could also choose to be the church who leans into the restless night, to commit our dreams to memory and to be willing to share them, no matter how bizarre and wild we might think they might are...using it to our advantage in creating a church where winds surrounds us, the Spirit fills us, moves us, and helps us to hold onto our core values, yet pushes us to take our values and to go outside our comfort zones, to see the church in a new and glorious light. Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, we are called to new age, a new era, a new life in Christ.
Filled by the Holy Spirit to proclaim this good news, to sing our praises to God, to share our passions, and our dreams with others. Friends, this is our calling, it may not be an easy one. Dreaming dreams requires sacrifice, but the more we stick together, the more we allow one another to share and live into the dreams we are given, harnessing the energy together, and using it to form and build new structures for the church; the better we can find new ways to approach God, the better we find meaningful ways to proclaim the goods news that we were given: God loves us and calls us to share that love to everyone.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in one of his books, tells us what God’s dream is for us and for the church, what we are called to proclaim. “God says to [the church], ‘I have a dream. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts. When there will be more laughter, joy, and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing. I have a dream that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, my family.’” How we share and tell this story, how we help to live out God’s dream, will change and evolve, but as people of God, we must we willing to dream as God dreams.
We are called at Pentecost, to look back in time, to see where and how the Holy Spirit has filled us, has urged us, and called us to fulfill the dreams God has placed on our hearts. But at Pentecost we are also called to be looking right now in the present, and be willing to have restless sleep which will allows us to have dreams that dare us to consider where God may be found today. May we be able to be filled by the Spirit, and be willing to dream and to live together in Christ as one. And may it be so. Amen.