Proper 10B Sermon (2009)

Proper 10 (July 10-16)
Texts: Ephesians 1:3-14;
Mark 6:14-29


[Audio clip: 1:38 of the “I Have a Dream” portion of MLK’s speech by that name.]

Wow! Those words still get my juices flowing. How about you? It helps capture the feeling again of being part of something big, of having a greater cause that gives your life meaning.

Did you have a similar reaction as Lori read our Epistle Lesson this morning? No? Context is everything, isn’t it? We hear Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and we immediately know the context, a people yearning for new freedom, a freedom, as King himself says, that is grounded in the American Dream. And it is immediately preceded by a part of the speech that I would call “Veterans of Creative Suffering,” as King recognizes the great cost of fighting for freedom. He lauds those who have been “battered by the storms of persecution.”

It is important, then, to know that St. Paul writes these words from jail, persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ. When he proclaims, “Jesus is Lord!”, the unspoken corollary is, “And Caesar is not!” — the kind of thing that will land you in jail. But these words to the Ephesians rise to know less lofty level than King’s words. For Paul is about dreaming God’s dream. We will be reading from this epistle for seven weeks now, and next week’s reading gets to the heart of the matter — the very same dream as Martin Luther King, as a matter of fact, as St. Paul paints for us a picture a one new human family where all the walls of hostility between peoples have fallen down in Jesus Christ. It is a dream of, in King’s words, all peoples being able to “sit down at the table of brotherhood,” a dream we live out each Sunday morning around this table. But it is an even bigger dream because it is grounded not just in the American dream but in God’s dream:

“With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Bryan Sirchio, a Christian songwriter who came to Prince of Peace a couple years ago, put it like this:

I’m dreaming of a world where the color of one’s skin
Will mean less than what’s within the person’s heart
A world where water’s clean, and where air is safe to breathe
And every child born has enough to eat.Dream God’s dream
Holy Spirit, help us dream…
Of a world where there is justice, and where everyone is free
The world will change when we dream God’s dream.

Everybody needs to have dream’s, right? If you’ve seen the latest Disney movie “Up!”, you know that it is more than a children’s movie. It is a marvelous movie about the importance of having dreams and acting upon them. And when some of the dreams don’t happen quite like we plan, there is a terrible loss. But the important thing is to dream some new dreams. Carl is the widower whose many dreams have died with his late wife, Ellie. When real estate hounds are pressuring him to sell his long-time home, he ties hundreds of helium balloons to his house in order to fly to one last adventure in remote South America where he and Ellie had always dreamed of going but never made it. Unwittingly, the young boy scout, Russell, who wants to get his merit badge for helping an elderly person has stowed away for this adventure. It’s a wild ride! But in the end, Karl realizes that he has the opportunity to dream new dreams by befriending young Russell, who so needs a grandfather figure in his life. It’s a beautiful story of lost and found dreams.

St. Paul in Ephesians is trying to rouse us to dream God’s dream, the biggest of all dreams, which will one day take in all of heaven and earth, the whole Creation. It will break down all the barriers of hostility and create one new human family. In our baptisms we – all of us – inherit that amazing dream. Zaccari this morning become a brother with us to share in dreaming that dream. Could there be any greater inheritance than that! In God’s grace you and I are called to take part in something much bigger than ourselves. We are given a purpose. We are called to a certain calling, to dream God’s dream of justice and a world at peace. Each of us is gifted with talents and gifts with which to contribute to the work. All of us are blessed with the fruits of the Spirit for love and forgiveness, for patience and wisdom, for kindness and generosity. It’s an awesome dream and an awesome calling!

But it also has its challenges. In a world still resistant and rebellious, there will be struggles and persecution. Look back on the past fifty years alone. There were the struggles and the pain of the civil rights movement itself. King began his “I Have a Dream” speech by noting that a hundred years after Lincoln, in whose shadow they gathered that day, People of Color still were not free. Even fifty years after that, we look around us this morning, in the most segregated hour of the week, and we know we still have a ways to go. It’s been barely forty years since we fought the struggle in our own church for full and equal rights for women, finally opening the way for women to be ordained into ministry. This summer our church makes crucial decisions around sexual preference. Is opening the way for blessing lifelong monogamous same-sex relationships another one of those walls of hostility that needs to come down before we can truly be one new human family in Jesus Christ?

Yes, there will be struggles and suffering ahead, too, but we take hope in the battle having already been won on the cross, where our Lord Jesus let himself become an outcast of the outcasts so that could finally see the cost of all our divisions and so that we might be forgiven them to begin our lives anew in God’s world of grace and love. Along with Zaccari this morning, you and I have died and arisen to that new world of grace where Jesus is our true Lord and where the Holy Spirit empowers us to learn and grown into dreaming God’s Dream:

Holy Spirit, help us dream…
Of a world where there is justice, and where everyone is free
The world will change when we dream God’s dream.

[Audio clip: The last 40 seconds of the “I Have a Dream” speech (theme: “Let Freedom Ring”).]

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Prince of Peace Lutheran,
Portage, MI, July 12, 2009

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