Do you remember your dreams? I don’t usually. In fact, dreams pass me by so much as I might even say that I don’t dream. Very occasionally that’s not the case and my dreams are big and vivid.
In a recent dream I had, a band who’s music I like very much were performing live, and I was able to attend. That in itself is pretty miraculous these days! What was unusual though was that I found myself playing drums that night with this band! This was a huge shock as I haven’t seriously played the drums for a while. The concert was going terribly though… None of us where in time, the guitars were not in tune, we stopped and started. It was shameful… What was stranger still in the dream was that the guitarist of the band, who is really lovely in real life, was getting very cross with me indeed - ‘Come on Simon you know these songs? Why aren’t you playing?!’ Even though I protested that part of the issue was that we had not rehearsed, he was having none of it, and I woke up with him shouting at me!
Whitsun, what we celebrate today as Pentecost Sunday, is a good time to dream some dreams. After all, at the heart of the first Pentecost sermon, Peter quotes from the prophet Joel to promise that God’s spirit enables all of us to dream -- young and old, male and female, slave and free -- all of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have been commissioned to be official Christian dreamers.
God calls the church to dream. All too often the church doesn’t dream. It feels like we are asleep - avoiding issues, not engaging with real life, dozy and slow to move when woken. As baptised people, as Pentecost people, a Spirit filled people, dreaming seems to get a bad press.
First, I wonder if somewhere down the road we decided that dreaming is for children; that dreaming isn’t, in other words, something that responsible adults should do. But, as we already noticed, Peter quotes Joel to say that everyone will see visions, prophesy, and dream. Interestingly, while his list starts with the young, it goes on to include old men as well! Moreover, one of the keys to innovation in according to those who influence the most successful companies, is to be willing to think like a child and relearn how to question assumptions. Who says our congregations can’t grow? Why do we assume that our friends and neighbours won’t come to our church? Where did we get the idea we have nothing to offer our community? And before you start to wonder whether Jairo or Helen are the answer to our dreams, just stop right there and rose yourselves.
Both Jairo and Helen’s learning curves are going to be steep certainly in their first year amongst us, but also beyond. Jairo’s title will be ‘Assistant Curate.’ He (and this is true for Helen in her new role as Reader too) is with us and amongst us to learn with us and from us and to assist us all in the ministry of the church - and that is something we are all called to. He isn’t just another pair of ordained hands - significant chunks of his time will be non parish-based training, and my availability will action stuff go down. These and too many other things “everyone knows” need to be called into question by some active dreaming that invites the Spirit to help us see possibilities we hadn’t seen before and asking what part we can all play, with Jairo and Helen, in realising those dreams.
Second, perhaps some are worried that dreaming can be divisive. What if, after all, your dream and mine are different? How do we decide which dream is “better”? Here we can turn to Paul in our reading from , who reminds us that there is always diversity and difference in the body, the Church -- and that is something to be celebrated! There are, as Paul writes to his beloved and difficult congregation in Corinth, a variety of gifts and likely a variety of dreams. But there is one Spirit. A plethora of dreams invites a new world of possibilities, but they are mediated by, as Paul says, a commitment to the common good. Each member of the body -- and each member’s dream -- has a role to play. It may be challenging to get there, but the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost was never intended to make things easy; rather, those tongues of flame were sent to set hearts on fire. And if there is some jostling along the way as we discern between gifts and dreams of the Spirit, we will be okay if we remember that we are all members of one Body.
Finally, I wonder if we’re just worried that if we dream we might be disappointed. I mean, if we just stick with the status quo, we won’t be surprised by how things work out. Dreaming, for some, feels like getting your hopes up. And if things aren’t going to end well, why add insult to injury by getting ourselves even more hurt in the process. Remember, Jesus refused to leave his disciples mired in fear. Indeed, as John tells us this morning, Jesus sought them out, finding them even though they’d shut themselves behind locked doors. Jesus has more in mind for us than fear. He wants to breathe upon us the same Holy Spirit he gave his first disciples and set us loose to forgive sin, share the good news, work for the welfare of our community, provide strength to the weak and courage to the fearful, and in all these ways to share with those around us the dream and vision of Christian community - and those dreams are God’s. Might we fail? Yes. But rather than let that possibility paralyze us, perhaps we can remember that God seems to have way to snatch surprising victory from the jaws of defeat.