March 20, 2022 ~ Third Sunday in Lent ~ ROLL DOWN JUSTICE
Rev. Beckie Sweet
The prophet Joel prophesied, “Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” So important was that prophesy that on the day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit arrived in a mighty wind with tongues of flame and the gift of languages with which to communicate with all hearers, Peter burst forth into a sermon in which he included this same passage!
Prophecies, visions, dreams ~ they are all signs of God’s Spirit blessing the faithful ones and leading them forth into God’s future. The passage does not say that people kept these prophecies, visions, and dreams to themselves out of the fear that others would think they were crazy. No, these dreams are meant to be shared. God is doing new and wonderful things, and the faithful have had the dreams to prove it! But so many times, adults are too inhibited to make public the messages we have received from God!
Children are often NOT so inhibited. The saying is true, “Kids say the darnedest things!” Have you ever read some of the letters that kids have written to God? Listen to a few this morning, the first from Mickey. He writes, “Dear God, if you watch in church on Sunday, I will show you my new shoes.”
Donna writes, “We learned in school that Thomas Edison made light. But we learned in Sunday School that you did it. I bet he stole your idea!”
Peter writes, “Dear God, please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year.”
Ginny says, “God, please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there right now!”
And then Nan writes, “God, it must be hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in my family, and I can never do it.”
I think Nan is on to something there. I, too, find it very difficult to love everyone in my extended family all the time! But, I am called to love “all of everybody” as Nan says, in all of the world. And that is our mutual calling through our baptism ~ to be Christ’s representatives in the world ~ to love all of everybody, especially when that is hard.
I dream of a church where we ponder and honor each other, the commitments each one makes to God and to the church, and the way in which each person, and all of us together, live that out in love. I dream of a church where “All Are Welcome!” ~ is not just a slogan, sign or mat at the front door, but is a way of being in relationship with others and with God. Because you know that if everybody isn’t welcome, nobody’s welcome. And if the blessings of God aren’t for everyone, they are nothing but a charade for the few. None of us have sufficient merit, knowledge or faith to qualify for the full measure of God’s blessings in the church. Thankfully, they are all free, and generously given. That is God’s form of love and justice!
John M. Perkins, the founder and president emeritus of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation, and a long-time Civil Rights advocate stated, “You have to be a bit of a dreamer to imagine a world where love trumps hate – but I don’t think being a dreamer isn’t all that bad.” And after he quotes the words of the prophet Joel and speaks of Jesus’ admonition to serve him within those in need, Perkins continues, “I’m an old man, and this is one of my dreams: that my descendants will one day live in a land where people are quick to confess their wrongdoing and quick to forgive the wrongdoing of others, and are eager to build something beautiful together.” Later in his book, “Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win” he speaks about justice. “Justice is a process, and change takes time, but I believe we ought to dream big dreams and make big statements as we pursue those dreams. Amos didn’t tell the people that God wants justice to trickle through our society. The New Living Translation uses the phrase ‘mighty flood of justice’ to describe what God wants to see.”
I dream of a church. I dream of a church! What dream of a church has God given to you? Is it a church where we serve Christ in the least and the lost? Don’t keep your dreams silent in your hearts. Share them with the expectation that these dreams can and will become reality!
I have long been familiar with Mark Miller’s song that Jackson shared so beautifully with us. I LOVE that song! It has been ringing through my thoughts all week, and I will probably still be singing it at the end of next week. But I stumbled across another hymn by that same name, written by Rev. Kate Compton. Using feminine imagery for God, she spins another dream:
I dream of a church that joins in with God’s laughing
As she rocks in her rapture enjoying her art:
She’s glad of her world, in it’s risking and growing:
‘tis the child she has borne and hold close to her heart.
I dream of a church that joins in with God’s weeping
As she crouches, weighed down by the sorrow she sees:
She cries for the hostile, the cold and no hoping,
For she bears in herself our despair and disease.
I dream of a church that joins in with God’s dancing
As she moves like the wind and the wave and the fire:
A church that can pick up its skirts, pirouetting,
With steps that can signal God’s deepest desire.
I dream of a church that joins in with God’s loving
As she bends to embrace the unlovely and lost,
A church that can free, by its sharing and daring,
The imprisoned and poor, and then shoulder the cost.
God, make us a church that joins in with your living,
As you cherish and challenge, rein in and release,
A church that is winsome, impassioned, inspiring:
Lioness of your justice, and lamb of your peace.
 John M. Perkins, Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win.