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Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
All men and women dream dreams. T. E. Lawrence, however added, but not all dream dreams equally. “Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
Yes, dreams play an important role in inspiring and challenging men and women how to act and take on life’s challenges. Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and humanitarian wrote, “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.” Even the imaginative mind of Walt Disney dared to write, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” Perhaps, not so surprisingly, the military tactician and diplomat Colin Powell said, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
In the days before Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples were huddled together, gathered around a single command. Jesus had told them on the day of his ascension to stay in the city of Jerusalem until they have been clothed with power from on high. Unfortunately, they had absolutely no idea what that promise would mean. So when the day of Pentecost finally dawned, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came, they were surprised. They were suddenly filled with a new energy, inspired and empowered to prophesy and dream dreams.
The festival of Pentecost reminds us that we have all been called by the Holy Spirit to be dreamers. We have been called to see the world in a different light, to dream dreams of how God would like the world to be, to envision possibilities for this dream to become a reality. But my friends, we have not all been called by the Spirit in the same way.
This morning, I would like to meditate on the two versions of the Pentecost story recorded in Scripture, the first from the book of Acts and the second from the Gospel of St. John. Both stories remind us that we don’t all dream dreams and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in the same way. For you the Spirit may be a mighty gale blowing fiercely, and changing your life course, and for others the Spirit may be the very breath of life that offers encouragement, strength and hope. As we celebrate this Pentecost, I invite you to ask yourself: How is the Holy Spirit active in my life? How am I being invited to dream dreams?
Let us begin with Peter and the other disciples. The Twelve Apostles were changed by the Holy Spirit. Seven weeks earlier when Jesus was taken from his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane by the Roman soldiers, the disciples scattered like sheep. And when a woman questioned Peter at a fire, the cowardly disciple was frightened and scared. He lied to save his own skin, and denied knowing his master. But now when the disciples were surrounded by a crowd of over three thousand curious and scoffing onlookers, they demonstrated a strength which they had never known before. And Peter himself suddenly had the courage to proclaim the good news. In spite of the scrutiny of educated pilgrims and the Pharisees around him, the lowly man from Galilee, a fisherman turned apostle, opened his mouth and preached. Yes, for the very first time, the disciple was acting on his own. Before he had stood under the shadow of Jesus, but now the Holy Spirit had come to guide him.
The same was true for the others upon whom Jesus breathed and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They were afraid. Indeed, they were hidden behind locked doors. There was nothing really remarkable about any of them. Most were fisherman, one was a tax collector, another was a militant, Simon the Zealot- a nationalist, sword- carrying Simon. They were a motley crew, and Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and they were changed. They were open to dream new dreams. My friends, even now, God’s Holy Spirit blows into some people’s lives with a mighty rush and for others it is a gentle human breath. Either way, he is calling and urging you to change, day by day, little by little, and bit by bit.
Second, the disciples discovered that in the darkest hours of faith the Holy Spirit offered inspiration and comfort. On that first Pentecost morning, Peter was given a voice of eloquence and balance. These were not the words of a fisherman under fire, but the words of an apostle comforted and guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit offered an inner strength, and whispered words to Peter that were honest, tempered and true. And at the close of the day, 3000 would be brought into the church that in morning awoke to 120 strong.
The same was true for the disciples as Jesus breathed on them. They were anxious and afraid. The doors were locked. They were fearful of what would happen to them, and then suddenly Jesus stood in the midst of them, and said, “Peace be with you.” This was more than a greeting. It was a word of inspiration. As he breathed on them, he said, “Go in peace and my peace will go with you.” Comforted by this word, the disciples went forth to be Christ’s Apostles and to build the church. And in the moments, when the task seemed most treacherous, when the nights were darkest, and the moments loneliest, they were inspired and comforted anew by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And the same will be true for you.
I know this has not been a good year for all the members of our congregation. It’s hard to dream dreams and to see them through. You have experienced surgery, illness, divorce, depression, death, unemployment, and at times, utter despair. It is a humbling task to offer your prayers before God. As the disciples gathered with their followers, they were no doubt struck by the daily trials of their faithful as well. Life would be so much easier, if choosing faith, and walking in the ways of Christ eliminated all of life’s struggles. But it doesn’t. In those dark nights of the soul, the disciples discovered that when they allowed the Holy Spirit to fill them with courage, hope and strength, they grew in a deeper understanding and awareness that that very Spirit helped them in their weakness. In those moments when they could not find the words to pray as they ought, the Spirit interceded with sighs too deep for words. Have you discovered that to be true? When you are struggling, emotionally and spiritually, trust in the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and comfort.
And finally, the presence of the Holy Spirit offered a spiritual vision for the future. More than 350 years ago, the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ landed on the east coast of North America, and in the first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a government, and in the third year the government planned a road five miles west into the wilderness. In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government for wasting public funds building a road to nowhere. “Who needs to go there, anyway?” they said. Here were people with the vision and determination to cross nearly a thousand miles of treacherous ocean, but in just a few years they could not see even five miles out of town. They lost their vision.
It’s hard to miss the Spirit’s sense of vision as you read Peter’s sermon on Pentecost or the stories of the apostles in the Book of Acts. With their vision, they turned the world upside down – and we are here this morning because that vision of the Church has become our vision as well. Throughout its stormy history the church has been blessed with dreamers- leaders like Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Spurgeon, Fosdick, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham. In their own unique ways, each has cast a spiritual vision for the church, a vision for their time, a vision for their world. The same is necessary for the Church today. We need men and women to dream dreams.
My friends, I do not know whether the Holy Spirit will be like a mighty wind turn your world upside down, or whether the Spirit will come like a gentle human breath whispering into your heart to be of good courage. But I do know that the Holy Spirit has been sent to invite to dream dreams. And as our Lord promises, “The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all the truth.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.