Dream It Into Reality

This morning I want to invite all of us to do something we, as Episcopalians, are not always comfortable with. I want us to take a moment to let go of the rational, to let go of the empirical and the scientific, and to delve into what Ellen Davis refers to as the religious imagination.
We can do this, although as rational and educated adults, we may not have done this in quite some time. It is the religious imagination which tells us this world can be so much better and perhaps even so much worse than it is today. In this morning’s reading from Revelation, St. John delves into the religious imagination and is allowed an eschatological vision, a peek, will you, into the end time when evil and darkness have been fully vanquished from creation and God returns to live among us in the New City of Jerusalem. 
Take a moment and imagine this reality, a world where there is no death, where mourning and crying and pain are no more. What does it look like? What does it feel like for you? I invite you to hold onto this vision, to this dream, for this is ultimately the dream God has for creation.
It saddens me, that as Christians, we fail to talk about John’s vision. It seems every time we discuss the Book of Revelation what we focus on is the time of tribulation and terror. What we tend to hear about are famines and plagues and great wars. Our discussions are used to literally scare us into Christ; used as a way to motivate us with fear towards behaving in a way which would assure the world, and us, that we are saved from the trials of damnation.
Its no wonder why the church in which many of us grew up with, you know, the great church of the fifties and sixties, has died and many of us are left scratching our heads, as we ask why young people have walked away. Its not because they haven’t taken the time to think about spiritual matters, it’s because they have figured things out. They have come to realize if Christianity is simply about personal salvation then there really is no need to be part of the church, because as we have taught them, their baptism took care of it once and for all. 
It continues to amaze me as I speak with young people in their teens, twenties and thirties, how they have this part of the message down pat. A complement to the writers of Christian education materials over the past thirty years. What our young people are missing is the other part of the story. The discussion that brings us out of the past, the part of the discussion that moves us beyond the fear of damnation and into the realm of the divine dream as foretold by St. John’s vision. 
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “ Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not.” As a people of God we are the people who dream and ask why not. We are the people who understand that while the story of God’s love for creation is woven into the story of the cross, God’s dream for creation is woven into the Book of Revelation.
When we allow ourselves to dream, to delve into the religious imagination then the purpose for the church is again realized. When we allow ourselves delve into our religious imagination and to experience the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city of the future, then our time together on Sunday morning moves from a gathering of obligation, to a celebration of what will be as we allow ourselves to experience a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. As we allow ourselves to indulge the religious imagination, this wonderful building is transformed from stone, mortar, plaster and paint into the physical reality of the new Jerusalem where all who have washed in the River of Life are gathered in worship as our praise becomes centered on the Lamb of God. When we allow ourselves to delve into the religious imagination the Sacrament of Baptism grows from being an act solely for personal salvation to also becoming part of the divine dream. 
As I thought about today, All Saints Day, I had to ask, what makes someone a saint? If we base it on St. Peter, we know it has little to do with intelligence, because he rarely got it right on the first try. If we base it on John the Baptist or St. Paul, we know being a saint has little to do with personality or the ability to get along with others. As I thought about the saints of God whom we celebrate throughout the year, saints like Mother Theresa, St. Francis, Theresa of Avila along with the many others who were like them. I came to realize, the one thing they all had in common. . .was their ability to both delve into the religious imagination and they were able to illuminate the dream for others as they lived their lives as if the dream were a reality. 
In a few minutes we will take the time to reflect on the people who we have known and loved and whose time has come to reside in heaven. As you take the time to reflect on the lives of these individuals, I invite you to think about how these people illuminated the love and the hope of our faith in your lives. I suspect this is why they were special to you and this is why you have decided to light a candle in their memory. I know for some our service of remembrance will be difficult as it brings to the fore the pain of loss. Grief is hard, but grief is also good because it reminds us of how deeply we were loved and of the memories that will never die. 
To all parents, especially those who have brought your children to be baptized, as you remember the saints in your lives, especially those helped you helped you experience both the love and the hope of God by how they lived their lives, make a vow to tell your children about them and how they illuminated your hope in the world to come.
When we do these things. When we allow ourselves to delve into the religious imagination; when we allow ourselves to live into the vision of Revelation, when we allow ourselves to work towards making this vision a reality. . .then we too. . .become saints. . .as we strive to make the dream possible and the vision a reality. 
Let us Pray,
Lord Christ, your saints have been the lights of the world in every generation: Grant that we who follow in their footsteps may be made worthy to enter with them into that heavenly country where you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
 ~ The Book of Common Prayer

One Comment Add yours

  1. Dorothy Pierce says:

    Great words, Craig.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s