Free To Dream

Day of Pentecost / John Stiles / Holy Cross Lutheran / 6-12-11

Acts 2:1-21
2When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Children’s Time: Today is Pentecost = the birthday of the church! It was the day the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and they went out to tell the whole world about Jesus. So, I brought birthday candles. What do you do with them, anyway? Yep, you blow them out. What do we have to do first? Make a wish, that’s right. So, what would you wish for? (It’s okay, if it’s not really your birthday today, you can say it out loud). Let’s light these candles and if you could, help me blow them out to celebrate the birthday of the church (and… don’t forget to make a wish!).

Intro: Dear friends in Christ: grace to you and peace, from the One who is and who was and who is to come: our living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

So, what is it that you wish for? And who made that rule that you couldn’t tell anyone or the wish wouldn’t come true? Remember Frank Sinatra, who sang about this? “And when you wish for a wish by a wishing well, don’t tell the wish or you’ll break the spell. It may sound naive, but that’s what I believe!”

So, what about you? What do you dream of doing or having or sharing with others? Do you have a bucket list? You know, that list of things you want to do before you… “kick the bucket?” It’s a way to dream, you might say. There is a website bucketlist.org you can visit to get ideas, if you’re not sure… Here are a few I noticed:
“get into a hockey fight”
“learn to play the ukelele”
“see the northern lights”
“touch a great white shark”
“be a voice in a cartoon movie”

None of them would do for me… I want to raise a horse from a pony and use my Grandpa’s “Horse book” to do it.
I want to record an album and donate proceeds to charity
I want to build a canoe / use that canoe
I want to conduct Henri Mancini’s The Magnificent Seven before a live orchestra!

What do you dream about doing? Where’s your passion? Your Spirit taking you?

Our lesson today lifts up dreamers! When I first read this lesson from Acts 2, I was drawn to Peter’s speech where he got up to explain what was happening: “No, these folks are not in fact drunk (it’s only 9:00 in the morning!). This is what the prophet Joel foretold:
In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

When was the last time you dreamed a dream? Or made a wish about the future? A recent Gallup Poll (Christian Century, 6/15/11) found that over half of all Americans surveyed said that this generation’s future will not be as good as their parents’. When asked: “How likely do you think it is that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents?” only 44% said “very likely” while 55% said “very unlikely.” Interestingly enough, this is a complete reversal of the same poll done in 2003, where 66% (2/3) said today’s youth are “very likely” to have a better life than their parents. What happened in between? Well, there’s the Great Recession of 2008. I’m sure that had something to do with it. But then there’s also something harder to pinpoint – which I believe is a poverty of the heart – an inability to dream.

The old dream dreams, the young see visions, and the children prophecy: “…out of the mouths of babes…”

“Heaven Is Real” is a book about a 4-year-old boy who had surgery and later went on to tell his parents that he had heard angels singing while he was unconscious – and how he met Jesus – and had an out-of-body experience, telling them details about what they were doing and talking about while he was being operated on.

Now, this is not the first story about people who can recall looking down on themselves from above the hospital room during surgery… but it does come from a child – and so reflects this child-like faith and prophecy in our reading on Pentecost.

When we forget how to dream, we become bound up by what is and always has been. We get stuck in a small box – built perhaps long ago, perhaps by someone else (or maybe by our younger selves) …and there we sit, unable to see over the top of that box.

As we bid farewell to Pat Hurlbutt (our Director of Music Ministry) this morning, we mix our sadness with a sweetness of dreaming about the future – what will our future staffing look like? Can we give ourselves room to ask “what if?” and to wonder just how God is preparing us and future leaders to serve among us?

When we dream, we open up the possibilities all around us. We avoid the judgemental “Why?” and instead ask, “Why not?” Pentecost sends us out in that Spirit. The same spirit puts words to our desires – it gives us voice to say out loud what has been calling us from afar. So much of the time we live here in this place and never imagine that the next day will be much different. And it may not… but we have the treasure of the gospel to share with those around us.

This is Jesus’ emphasis in our Gospel reading from today. Strangely enough, in the gospel of John, the Spirit comes at Easter! Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection and breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Okay, we get that. He shows up. Gives them the spirit… but then he says something odd: “If you forgive the sins of any they are forgive, and if you retain the sins of any they are retained.” What do we make of this?

First off, what’s so special about forgiveness?
Isn’t it the only thing that seems to work when everything else has failed?
Forgiveness has saved marriages and built bridges
It has resolved conflicts and renewed friendships
Forgiveness has helped unburden the souls of those weighed down with guilt
It has loosed the bonds and put nations back on peaceful terms
It has helped families turn the page on dark chapters in their lives
Forgiveness turns the tide of vengeance.
It scandalizes our own self-righteous notions.
It says “yes” when all the offender really deserves is a “no.”
And it’s our power to wield. To grant or withhold.

Matt Skinner, professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary has said that when this is properly translated, it doesn’t mean that Jesus makes us “moral watchdogs” with the power to decide who is really sorry for their sins. No, this is better translated as “setting free” (as in forgiving one a debt). In other words, whenever we share the love of the Holy Spirit with another, we are setting them free. A failure to bear witness ends up with people who are still stuck in lives with no meaning. (http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?lect_date=6/12/2011)

So, will you dream with me this day? And not just for ourselves… but for those who haven’t yet heard. Will you share that vision for others, just longing to hear the witness you bear and be set free? And not just for our children, but for all people to have hope for a better future?

Let us pray: O God, we close our eyes and make a wish… that you would send your Holy Spirit to this place – break the bounds that once kept us locked up and fill our lives with dreams. Send us to others just waiting to be set free from sin by the power of your Spirit within us. …in your name we pray, Amen.

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