Preached January 9, 2011 at Jubilee! Circle, Columbia, SC
Readings: Isaiah 42:1-9: “He will not fail or be discouraged …” Matthew 1:18-25: “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream …”
Our first song comes from the Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Working on a Dream is the title track from Bruce’s 16th studio album released in 2009. Let’s try it.
Out here the nights are long the days are lonely I think of you and .I’m working on a dream I’m working on a dream
Now the cards I’ve drawn’s a rough hand, darlin’ I straighten the back and I’m working on a dream
I’m working on a dream,
I’m working on a dream, though sometimes it feels so far away
I’m working on a dream, and I know it will be mine someday
Writer Henry David Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” But, more often than not – if we go toward our dreams at all, we go at a halting pace, sometimes two steps forward and one step back, stumbling and bumbling our way in the general direction of our dreams. What most often keeps us from going confidently toward our dreams is fear. What will people think? What will my friends, and my enemies, say? What if I realize my dream, then what? What will I have to change to get there? Am I really willing to work that hard? Is it really worth it? If we can quiet our mind for a minute we would understand that, yes, our dreams are always worth it – no matter what anyone has to say about them, because creativity – dreams – are the natural order of life. Our lives are energy – pure creative energy – creativity is the Holy’s gift to us. When we go confidently toward our dreams we give that gift back to the Holy. In today’s Hebrew Scriptures, Isaiah reminds us of our relationship with the Holy. We are servants. While that may evoke negative images of a hierarchal relationship – this truly is how we work with the Holy. We are servants – channels of the living, still-speaking God. When we go toward our dreams, whether confidently or stumbling along the way – the Holy uses us, speaks to us and through us. When we’re going toward our dreams we can hear the Holy – we can serve the Holy’s higher purpose for our lives.
“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.”
Behold, the servants of the Holy – that’s everyone in this room. The Holy’s Spirit is within each of us – we have the power to realize our dreams, and yes, even to bring forth justice in this world. We will not fail or be discouraged, because we are chosen – called servants of the Holy. We’re working on a dream – a dream of justice put in our hearts by the Holy.
Rain pouring down I swing the hammer My hands are rough from working on a dream
Working on a dream
I’m working on a dream, though trouble can feel like it’s here to stay I’m working on a dream, and our love will chase the trouble away
Today’s Hebrew scripture reading reminds me a little bit of another piece of sacred writing from the Holy book of Seuss – Dr. Seuss, that is:
“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
Oh! The places you’ll go!
Thus says the Holy, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;”
Oh! The places you’ll go! Oh, the dreams you’ll realize with brains in your head, feet in your shoes, and the Holy within, taking you by the hand and keeping you on the path. The Holy, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and everything that comes from it, who gives breath and spirit to every single one of us – that’s your traveling companion. What are you afraid of?
How would it change the way you live, how would it changed the way you dream, if you truly believed that God has called you? How would it change the way you live, how would it changed the way you dream, if you truly believed that the Holy takes you by the hand every single day? How would it change the way you live, how would it changed the way you dream, if you truly believed that the Holy keeps you – in every year, in every week, in every day, in every single moment?
“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers, who soar to high heights. You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.” Oh, the places you’ll go, Jubilants, with the Holy as your guide.
I’m working on a dream, though it can feel so far away I’m working on a dream, our love will make it real someday
The sunrise come, I climb the ladder
A new day breaks and I’m working on a dream I’m working on a dream I’m working on a dream
I’m working on a dream
I’m working on a dream, though it can feel so far away I’m working on a dream, and our love will make it real someday
There’s an old story about a woman who every night that she is being chased through a big haunted house by a hulking monster. Night after night, the hideous thing runs after her, its breath like acid on the back of her neck. It all seems so real.
Finally one night, the dream begins again, but this time the beast corners the poor terrified woman, and just as it’s about to tear her apart, the woman finds her voice and yells:
“What are you? Why are you chasing me? What will you do to me?”
At that, the monster stops, straightens up, and with a puzzled expression, puts its hands on its hips and says, “How should I know? It’s your dream.”
It’s your dream, Jubilants, which means that whatever fears you’ve projected onto your dreams are there by your choice alone – and usually they have nothing to do with reality – but your own fears of failure or ridicule.
Instead of being chased by your fears, I invite you to chase your dreams, and send your fears fleeing.
Our second song comes was almost a top ten hit for singer Sheryl Crow. “Everyday is a Winding Road” went to #11 on the charts back in 1996. The song is still popular and has been covered by Prince, and even used in a Subaru commercial. Let’s try it.
I used to ride with a vending-machine repair man,
He said he’s been down this road more than twice
He was high on intellectualism, I’ve never been there, but the brochure looks nice
Jump in, let’s go, Lay back, enjoy the show Everybody gets high, everybody gets low
These are the days when anything goes
Everyday is a winding road (I get a little bit closer)
Everyday is a fading sign
(I get a little bit closer to feeling fine)
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you. You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.” In today’s Jesus story, we find Jesus’ dad Joseph being left in a Lurch. His dreams of a wonderful marriage are shattered when he learns that his bride-to-be is already pregnant – and he knows he didn’t do the deed! So, he resolves to quietly divorce her – to put aside this dream and move on. Then, another dream came to him. “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ “Do not fear …” the angel said to Joseph, and the angel tells us the same about our dreams – do not fear! We are all pregnant with dreams waiting to be brought forth into this world – dreams conceived in us by the Holy Spirit. Dreams that are meant to be birthed so that others may blessed, birthed so that others may come into a relationship with the Holy. “Do not fear.” Ah, but we do fear. We fear our dreams and we feel all alone – just like Joseph as he faced the shame of a fiancee pregnant with someone else’s child. Just like the guy in Dr. Seuss’ holy story we find ourselves in a scary place – all alone. “And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.” Breathe deeply.
He’s got a daughter he calls Easter She was born on a Tuesday night I’m just wondering why I feel so alone Why I’m a stranger in my own life
Jump in, let’s go, Lay back, enjoy the show Everybody gets high, everybody gets low These are the days when anything goes Everyday is a winding road (I get a little bit closer)
Everyday is a fading sign (I get a little bit closer) Everyday is a winding road (I get a little bit closer)
Everyday is a fading sign (I get a little bit closer to feeling fine)
When we find ourselves all alone and scared on that winding road when we don’t want to go on, I invite you to remember Joseph. Divorcing Mary would have been the right thing to do. The scripture tells us that Joseph was a “just man” who didn’t want to put Mary to shame. Everyone would have understood if Joseph didn’t go through with the marriage. They would have patted him on the back and told him he should be comforted by doing the right thing. But, in that moment of fear and loneliness, Joseph decided to go against what society expected of him. He decided his dream of a life with Mary was not worth giving up, even if society would nod sagely and support him in that decision. Joseph dared to face social scorn and outcast status to pursue his dream – to become a servant of the Holy, no matter what the world had to say about it. He risked it all – to be seen as a “sinner” by the world – to be seen as a failure by the world – to fulfill God’s call to pursue his dream. I invite you, Jubilants, hear the Holy tonight: “Do not fear!” Behold, you are servants of the Holy, upheld, chosen. The Holy delights in you. The Holy Spirit lives in you. You will not fail or be discouraged. You will not fail or be discouraged – when you are pursuing you dreams. But, remember, the Holy calls us to big dreams – not just dreams of money, or relationships, or anything that simply helps us live a better life. The Holy calls us to dreams that move out farther than just our own needs. The Holy calls us to dream dreams that bring justice into this unjust world. The Holy calls us to dream dreams that bring healing to a hurting world. The Holy calls us to dream dreams that brings love into a world of hate. The Holy calls us to dream dreams that brings abundance into a world of need. “Oh, the places you’ll go!” “Do not fear,” Jubilants – and do not dream small, selfish dreams. Dream big dreams that establish justice in this world, because those are the kind of dreamers this world truly needs. There will be monsters on the journey – but they are only there because you put them there. They are not real! You may stumble on the winding road to your dreams, but keep going, keep moving. Do not fear. “You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) Kid, you’ll move mountains!”
I’ve been swimming in a sea of anarchy I’ve been living on coffee and nicotine I’ve been wondering if all the things I’ve seen were ever real
Were ever really happening (ever really happening)
Everyday is a winding road (I get a little bit closer) Everyday is a fading sign (I get a little bit closer) Everyday is a winding road (I get a little bit closer)
Everyday is a fading sign
(I get a little bit closer to feeling fine)
(Everyday is a winding road)
(Everyday is a winding road)
(Everyday is a winding road)
The founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, Rev. Candace Chellew earned her Masters of Theological studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Her first book, “Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians”, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2008. She currently serves as the Spiritual Director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C.