Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the dreams of Jesus. Not his night time dreams. But the dream that drove him day by day. It was never far from his awareness. He talked about it, taught about it, and prayed about it. Both his healings and his post-resurrection interactions reflected it. As I write about in The Jew Named Jesus, it was his self-stated reason for coming.
Call me crazy, but I think if we were to recapture Jesus’ own dream, our lives as followers would be fuller and richer. Our discipleship would be truer. Our churches would be re-invigorated. The world would be transformed.
What was Jesus’ dream? In a nutshell: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We think of this line as part of the Lord’s Prayer. But I think of it as Jesus’ dream. His dream for us, for humanity, for all creation. The Kingdom figured in everything Jesus did. First he announced it, then he enacted it through miracles and healings, then God inaugurated it through his resurrection.
What is Jesus’ dream? That the beautiful, creative, abundant, gracious, life-giving, blessed intentions of God would be as fully realized on earth as they already are in heaven. That heaven would be reflected here on earth. That we would fully embody God’s will in all our dealings.
So that means a few things: first, the well-being of the earth is essential to Jesus’ own dream. This is where God’s salvation plays out, not in an afterlife. Second, it means we’re called to be active participants. Third, it means that we have to elevate our consciousness beyond the physical to sense the deep spiritual movement of the Divine will and consciousness within us. In other words, we have to let the dream move us to new actions, new conversations, and new ways of being.
Pope Francis has caught the dream. In his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’: On the Care of our Common Home, he articulates a new vision of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Where both the poor and the planet receive preferential treatment.
He also articulates what it takes to get there. “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. … A great cultural, spiritual, and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” (paragraph 202)
United Methodist Bishops, too, have written about the need for renewal.
The necessity of human renewal, of re-imagining what it means to be human, was made devastatingly clear when an armed 21-year old man joined a prayer meeting and Bible Study at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston S.C. Less than an hour later, Dylann Roof, a white southerner with racist beliefs opened fire on this inclusive gathering. Nine black spiritual and civic leaders, including 3 pastors—one of whom-Rev. Clementa Pinckney—was a respected state senator, lay dead.
Followers of Jesus, this is a potent time to embrace Jesus’ dream and make it our own. Here are some insights about how to dream like Jesus from the week just past:
- Dream a bigger dream. This sweeps people up with you and creates a current that moves things forward. Family members of the slain forgave the killer. They urged him to repent. They did this not to let him off the hook. Or to whitewash racism. But to free themselves of hatred and revenge. And to be ready for a better future.
- Speak up even when powerful forces threaten you. Climate change “skeptics”, whose funding can be traced back to the fossil fuel industry, sought vigorously to dissuade Pope Francis from speaking out on climate change, or at least to include their perspective in his paper. Pope Francis, a chemist by training, and a life-long advocate of the poor, instead chose to call all humans to a vision where our common good outweighs the financial interests of some corporations.
- Love is the answer. In conversations with clergy from a variety of denominations, I have been struck by the cynicism and despair the church shooting has engendered. Love wins. Love always wins. Keep hope alive.
- Do justly. The search for justice is not easy. Biblical definitions of justice do not equal revenge, but of all creation living together in peace and harmony. What can you do in your corner of the world to create a world that works for all creatures and all people?
We can’t make Jesus’ dream come true. But we can align our dreams with his. Then ready ourselves for their manifestation. As I write in The Jew Named Jesus, Church historian Diana Butler Bass notes in her book [Christianity After Religion], the first Christians believed that Jesus would restore the kingdom; medieval Christians believed that the church was the kingdom; Reformed Christians believed that true Christians embodied the kingdom in word and sacrament; and modern Christians believed they could create the kingdom through their work. But there has also been another story about the reign of God—the notion that God’s people anticipate and participate in the kingdom through spiritual practices.” The spiritual practices she goes on to name include prayer, hospitality, forgiveness, charity, and stewardship. These are akin to Jewish spiritual practices of worship, service to God, study, charity, and acts of loving kindness that Judaism teaches will hasten the arrival of God’s reign on earth. None of us can make the kingdom of God come. But we can practice being ready for it.
The best way to dream like Jesus is to practice the Kingdom of God, here and now.