“Easter Dreams” Easter Sunday Mark 16: 1-18 4.1.2018
After the completion of Disney World in Florida, someone remarked, “Isn’t it too bad that Walt Disney didn’t live to see this!” Mike Vance, creative director of Disney Studios replied, “He did see it – that’s why it’s here.”
Everything in life that we use or hold, eat or watch, wear, sit in or listen to — in other words, everything that is a creation of human ingenuity — started out as a dream. Before anything can become tangible, it must first become a reality in the mind of its dreamer.
Only when the dream is real for one can it become real for all. Not until the dream is real for me can it become real for you.
Zippers, Christmas tree lights, quadruple bypass heart surgery, combustion engines, cotton candy, x-rays, air conditioning, flush toilets, matches, eyeglasses, computers, espresso machines, smartphones — all these things were once dreams in some person’s mind. The dreams of others make our lives tasty, pleasant, hopefully easier, and sometimes even possible.
So why is it that we live in a world furnished with the dreams of others, yet there are so many nightmares stalking the land?
- Why did we first nightmare up nuclear weaponry instead of dreaming up world peace?
- Why did we nightmare up high-tech security systems and gated communities instead of dreaming up communities of trust?
- Why did we nightmare up fast foods instead of dreaming up a way to feed every hungry child in the world?
- Why did we nightmare up apartheid and slavery and Jim Crow instead of dreaming up societies of justice and equality?
- Why did we nightmare up gun shootings instead of dreaming up ways that laws can be creatively used to protect the innocent, no matter their race, age or gender, instead of leading to more violence & harm?
Because today the Good Friday nightmare has been transformed into the Easter Dream, the way has now been opened for ending all nightmares and making all dreams real. And dreams lead to action.
The Resurrection means that Christians can hopefully& eagerly:
- dream & work for plenty in the midst of poverty;
- dream & express compassion in the midst of poverty;
- dream & work for justice in the midst of inequity;
- dream & work for love in the midst of hate;
- dream & work for peace in the time of war.
New generations of Christians are despairing of dreaming because they have not yet learned to distinguish between dreaming dreams of happiness and dreaming dreams of joy. Who says Christians are supposed to be “happy?” Christians are supposed to dream dreams and to work on those dreams.
We’ve taken too literally what Sunday school and summer camp taught us: “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands … stomp your feet …” and do all sorts of other Christian calisthenics.
We’ve put too much emphasis on looking happy and “being happy” instead of dreaming dreams. It is time for Christians to tolerate no further nonsense about “happiness.”
- The first-century world did not say, “See how happy those Christians are.”
- The first-century world did said, “See how those Christians love one another.”
Christians are not necessarily happier than non-Christians, at least as the world defines happiness. But we are or can be more joyful, and we can risk more dreaming.
Writer Russell Baker once wrote in the New York Times that “The truth is I don’t feel good most of the time and don’t want to. Moreover, I do not comprehend why anyone else should want to.” It’s normal not to feel good all the time, not to go around happy all the time — at least if one is doing something great for God.
Easter dreaming isn’t about “happiness.” Christians have no special “right to happiness.” Christians may or may not be “more happy” than non-Christians. And from a psychological view, happiness is a choice, and many people make the wrong choice.
Joy, on the other hand, is a condition of “gladness,” “delight,” or the “exultation of spirit.” Happiness is not a fundamental category for the Christian – Joy is.
Joy is the stuff Easter dreams are made of. God did not put us on this earth to be happy. God put us here to enjoy what God has created and is doing in the world.
We were put here to glorify God — to experience a joy unspeakable and full of glory, the joy that comes from Easter Dreams. And once the joy from Easter Dreams is experienced then comes the action based on that Easter Joy.
It was with renewed dreams of Easter joy that Mary Magdalene told the disciples & other followers that she had seen the risen Jesus.
The Easter Dream that makes all other dreams possible lives on. Here is an example of Easter Dreams at work. This story you did not hear from the news media.
Why did the Berlin Wall come crashing down in 1990?
Because one church in Leipzig, East Germany, the Kikolai Protestant Church, began dreaming the Easter Dream. Its pastor, Kristian Guntwig, believed that it was time the Christian church stopped “diluting the message” of the gospel.
So his church started some prayer meetings on Monday evenings, prayer meetings that began with the Easter Dream that “all things are possible.” Within a short time, as he says in his own words, the people praying encountered “in our services and meetings … the miraculous experience of feeling the effect of the Word of God & the Spirit of God in us.” God’s presence “was with us. It was with us, all of us.”
And soon the number of people praying swelled to over 200,000, 90 percent of whom were non-Christians but were drawn by this Easter energy. It was these praying people who poured from the meeting on that fateful Monday evening to protest in the streets, Wir sind das Volk (“We are the People”), and created the movement that toppled the Berlin Wall.
Why they hadn’t felt it before, Pastor Gundwig believes it is because the church had been seduced by “the conventional image of Jesus as one who doesn’t disturb, who is only passive,” who is there only to make people happy.
Through prayer and Bible study, these people found a “Jesus that spoke directly to the people the truth” rather than a Jesus that diluted the truth. They found in a resurrected Jesus the power to dream again good dreams for their city and their nation. They found in a resurrected Jesus the power to act on their good dreams.
Indeed, Pastor Guntwig believes it may be more difficult to keep the Easter Dream alive in freedom than in oppression because in freedom, one is tempted to dream materialistic dreams instead of spiritual dreams. He writes: “For 40 years, we had in the East the experience of theoretical materialism and atheism. Over the past number of years, we are confronted with something new — actual materialism. Materialism used to be a theory; in this integration with the West, it is a fact.”
It is now more difficult to identify “the enemy.” The “anything goes” mentality coming from the West is a problem for the church. In this pluralistic mess, it is hard for young people to find their identity, to find true values to stick with
I believe there is something to be added to Pastor Gunwig’s thoughts. I don’t believe our dreams are great enough, are big enough. How puny our dreams have become — how puny our hopes, how puny our ambitions, & how puny our faith.
There is a “Peanuts” comic strip where Charlie Brown says:
“I’ve developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time.”
This is not Easter Dreaming. Easter Dreams are great Dreams. Easter Dreams lead to Easter action.
So, on this day of the Resurrection I ask you, What’s your Easter Dream?
- What is your Easter Dream for the church, for the community, & for the world?
- What is your Easter Dream for yourself, or for your family?
- Will you dedicate your life to dreaming God-sized dreams for this congregation, this neighborhood known as the U District, & our world?
- Will you dedicate your life to acting on your Easter Dreams?
The empty grave is about Easter Dreams and Easter Dreams are not puny.
Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through Jesus Christ. Amen
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 4-1-18” name of the sermon.