Pews filled to the edges every worship service, Sunday school rooms bursting at the seams with children’s laughter, youth groups physically unable to contain their excitement, giving from members coming in at astronomical rates to the point of having to come up with hundreds of ideas of how to use all that cash for the community. And obviously we can’t forget absolutely no debt whatsoever, as well as everyone participating in all the ministry teams and roles in leadership, engaging Bible studies every week without fail, and of course the best edge-of-our-seat sermon every Sunday to rejuvenate our soul and ignite the Holy Spirit within us each and every time before we walk out the door in service to the world. That’s the dream of every church on the face of the earth, as if all of that would make the unequivocally perfect church for everyone to be proud of, members and non-members alike. And so the struggle continues as to how exactly to achieve it, to make it the reality every time we gather.
However, this season of Lent should remind us of another dream that children of God had long long ago. They dreamed of a Messiah, of this God Who would save them not just physically, mentally, or emotionally, but eternally. The closest thing they ever got were these prophets who proclaimed that there would be this little child who would lead us. He would bear our infirmities, carry our diseases. He would be wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, pouring Himself out to the point of death. When these prophets of old would tell of this pie-in-the-sky dream-like scenario, that’s the closest humanity ever got to a Savior, to this God Who would immerse the divine extravagance into a humble mortal being just like them in order to save children of God forever. That was their dream thousands of years ago. But it wasn’t just theirs. It was the world’s dream. It was humanity’s deepest yearning for all time. It was our dream even before we came to be: a Messiah to come and redeem us all, in this life, and the life to come.
So this season of Lent is giving us a desperately needed reality check, as Christians continue to obsess over so much to the point of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stress. Lest we forget, for every church all over the world, for every congregation that has come and gone since the beginning, the dream has come true. The dream of a Messiah born for us, a Son given to us, the God with us, is real! It’s already been done! No church in all of history has ever had, nor ever will have, the responsibility of making the dream of any Christian come to life. God has already taken care of it through Jesus Christ forever!
This all came to mind when I read the Psalm for this morning: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Dreams are usually beyond our normal capacity until we’re immersed into this seemingly existential world but for a moment as we fall into a deep sleep. It’s beyond our control, just beyond our mental comprehension. And yet, with God, the dream is never beyond our reach. It’s in us each and every day. It’s the Holy Spirit, the ever-dedicated God of fire and new life working in us, constantly reminding us that we have been claimed by God through Jesus Christ now and forever. We never wake up from it. We live the dream that children of God could only hope for for thousands of years!
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream… our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” This great news that God reminds us of each and every day, what Jesus has done and continues to do for us and the world should make us be so overcome with laughter and joy because of the fortunes from a cross and what lies on the other side of the Calvary hill. It’s already been stored in us for eternity. The joy of eternal life has already been unleashed into us because of the saving work of our long-sought-after-for Messiah.
Nevertheless there are plenty of days when we are filled with tears instead of laughter, shouts of anguish instead of joy, not just because churches aren’t filled to the rafters, but life is filled with plenty of not-so-perfect circumstances and worries and fears. So, lest we forget, this season of Lent reminds us of another dream that was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, when this God came to life in such a way to be Emmanuel, God with us.
Because that also means God with us through the suffering, through the tears, through the shouts of anguish. This God is by no means limited to the joyous laughter. This is the God Who knows pain and anguish and rejection and deceit and even death itself. Our dream has come true even before we came to be: God with us each and every day, God surrounding us with love in spite of the pain and sadness, and God lifting us up even at the very last in the face of the same death that failed against our divine dreamer. Lest we forget that the dream of every child of God has come true, and it can never be shut away from any of us for the rest of eternity. And for that, we give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon