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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 13:8-14

Matthew 18:15-20

The word “dreamer” has been used a lot in the news this week; especially as it relates to     “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”  It refers to those 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children and who yearn for the American dream – to live out their years with hopes and aspirations, and the benefits as well as responsibilities of the only country that most of them have known.

How about you?  Are you a dreamer?  Do you have hopes and dreams for your own life?  Your relationships?  Family?  This church?  The world?

I have been thinking about this and my guess is that like them, you too have dreams that you are dreaming for yourself; at least I hope so.

For me, I cannot imagine that I have already experienced all that God has in store: that I have met all the people I am supposed to meet; loved all the people I was destined to love.  I cannot imagine that there are no new ministries or platforms; no fresh ideas or creative energies; or loves that will be born and manifested in my life.  I cannot imagine that at all.

I think it would be a sad thing to be so despondent, so beat down by life, so turned inward that we can no longer dream dreams.  To be so defeated by what our eyes see and our ears hear that we can no longer feel the heartbeat of God calling us to new aspirations, new vistas for learning and growing and being in this world.

But real dreamers also know that it takes more than just dreaming.  It takes more than just wishing or identifying the challenges of the current situation.  If a dream is to become a reality it requires something: good hard work, sacrifice, and great effort.  Commitment and dedication.  Patience and understanding.  It requires staying the course and going the distance even when we don’t feel like it; opening ourselves up and being willing to be engaged in the outcome; listening and speaking in ways that we might not want or would often much rather not; moving from the outer edge of disappointment to the center of reconciliation and trying again.  Real dreamers understand that they don’t get a free pass if they want their dreams to come true.

All that we do in the church is about God’s dream and making God’s dream for God’s world a reality; that the body of Christ will be as God intended.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his book, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time refers to a South African word called ubuntu; a concept that describes the essence of our shared humanity and what it means to be fully human.  It is not specific to a particular people, religion or denominations but rather attends to the fact that we are connected and interdependent on one another.  We are bound together whether we like it or not.

“I am human because I belong…”[1]  I belong.  I belong to you and you belong to me.

“Echoing the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tutu imagines the heart and voice of God; that God is saying to us, the readers and listeners, ‘I have a dream.  Please help Me, he imagines God saying, help Me to realize it.  It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts, when there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing.  I have a dream…that My children [he imagines God as saying] will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, My family.”[2]

The Scriptures are all about God’s dream: what is in the heart and mind of God for us, the people of God.  How does God want us to be with one another and with others?  What does that look like in real time?  In real and tangible ways?

Specifically, this morning, our gospel points us to our engagement with one another in the Church, the body of Christ.  “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”[3]  Can you even imagine that?  Can you imagine in this “gotcha” culture that we live in how much further along we would be if we could just do that?  Can you imagine the frustration, anxiety and confusion that could be eliminated if we just had the courage and enough love for a desired good outcome to be able to go to another person who has offended us or misunderstood us or we them and simply sit down and have a conversation so that the ultimate goal of healing and reconciliation would be realized.  Can you imagine?  We know it’s risky, right?  How there are conversations that we would rather avoid because we are not sure how the other will respond.  That takes more courage; a difference sensibility altogether than talking behind one’s back or spreading rumors, gossip, or alternate facts.

And then, Matthew goes further.  He says in essence, if the person won’t listen to you; if the two of you cannot work it out, take along one or two others, so that every word may be verified.  In other words, take somebody along so that you don’t get lost into he said/she said.  You know how we self-select on hearing, don’t you?  How we hear certain things or don’t hear others.  How we hear what we want but rarely listen.  Take someone alone with you, he instructs, so God’s dream for that relationship can be restored.

Even further, he suggests if you that doesn’t work, bring it to the body.  Work it out so that there can be a future together.  Love one another.  All parties matter.  Work it out.

In community, we dream together not individually.  Individually, we may want certain things a certain way; but in community we want what is best for the whole.  Our dream gets locked up in a bigger dream.  Here is the promise:  “For where two or three are gathered in my name [in the name of goodness and justice; love and graciousness; in the name of the One who died for us all; when we gather with that sweet name on our lips and that precious way as our way regardless of how difficult], I am there among them.”[4]

The Apostle Paul says, “…now is the time to awake from sleep; the night is far gone, the day is near.  Lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Live honorably with one another.  Not in quarreling and reveling; jealousy.  Instead put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”[5]

He reminds us that there is a third entity at work among us; beyond everything – our faults and individual preferences.  Beyond our agreements and disagreements.  Beyond our differences.  There is something and someone larger who holds us.  We are bound up together.  Either, we as a people will succeed together.  Or we as a people suffer together.

We must constantly be asking ourselves whether or not we are asleep.  Do our actions belong to darkness or to the light?  If there ever was a time or place where we should be agents of light it is now.  This moment, this era, this time in history for this is our time.

What great opportunities lie before us when we are willing to bind ourselves together! What dreams we can imagine and not only imagine, but dreams that can be realized.  In our time.  With us.  Through us.  May it be so.

 

 

[1] Desmond Tutu, “God Has A Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time”, Doubleday, New York, p. 26.

[2] Ibid. p. 24 (and front inside cover).

[3] Matthew 18:15

[4] Matthew 18:20

[5] Romans 13:11b