I Dream the Dream of the Dream of God – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6
Canticle 16 or Psalm 46
Colossians 1: 11 – 20
Luke 23: 33 – 43

Those of you who have been on retreat with me in the past, or heard me preach, especially at Emery House, will know that I frequently go back to the same starting point over and again. I often begin with what is my favourite collect, the collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas:

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.[1]

This is my favourite collect because it touches on what for me are the great themes of the Christian life: creation, redemption, incarnation, our inherent dignity as the daughters and sons of God and the person, nature and mission of Jesus. The collect hints too at Genesis and John and Second Peter:

God saw everything that [God] had made, and indeed, it was very good.[2]

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.[3]

Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.[4]

We hear echoes of Irenaeus and Athanasius:

The glory of God is the human being fully alive.[5]

He became like us, so that we might become like him.[6]

And all of this points in one direction: the invitation and promise of Jesus calling us to follow where he has lead the way:

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.[7]

In hearing these words which Jesus spoke to the repentant thief from the cross, we are invited once again to share in the dream of God; a dream which began in a garden when God declared all that had been created, including ourselves to be good. It is a dream dreamt by Jeremiah when he declared that God would raise up a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.[8] It is the same dream that Isaiah dreamt when he declared that on this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.[9] It is the same dream dreamt by Malachi who reminds us that on them who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.[10] It is the same dream dreamt by John on Patmos ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’[11]

The mystery who is God is a God of dreams. And when we too dream like God and see a world that is good, a world where all will have enough, a world where righteousness and truth reigns, a world where mourning and crying and pain are no more, a world where our God reigns,[12] then we too are dreaming the dream of God and are sharing the divine life of him who humbled himself for our sake.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Reign of Christ, Christ the King. It is a feast of dreams, for in this feast we see the world, not as the Boston Globe or the New York Times sees it, but as God sees it: a world made for love:  for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[13] This is the dream of God, a dream of love.

We see God’s dream unfolding around us when the sin of gun violence is ended and children go to school to learn and not be killed; where women live lives of dignity and safety and where black lives are valued and honoured. We see the dream of God unfolding around us when people have enough to eat and when refugees can return to live in their own homes. We see the dream of God unfolding around us when health insurance is available to everyone and when our elders are seen not as a burden but as the bearers of our corporate memory. We see the dream of God unfolding around us when people who are different from us because of their race, or gender or sexuality are seen as people to be embraced, and not feared. We see the dream of God unfolding around us where all live in harmony and peace. This is the dream of God that we dream today on this feast of Christ the King, when we celebrate a king who reigns, not from a throne, but from a Tree, who comes to us as a shepherd and not a prince, and who lays down his own life for the sake of the flock. This is the dream of God.

For some, this dream is a fantasy, a myth, an impossibility. For some this dream is about a different place, a different reality, a different plane. For some this dream is about a remote place called heaven and not about where we live now, on earth. For some this dream ended ten days ago.

But the dream of God is real. The dream of God is true. The dream of God is possible. And we see it, and know it and touch it. And today we declare it. As First John reminds us: we declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.[14] For you and I have seen the dream of God. We have heard it, and seen it, and looked upon it and touched it. And today we do so again.

For the dream of God is no fantasy. It is true, and we have seen it. The dream of God is no myth. It is true, and we believe it. The dream of God is no impossibility. It is true, and we have touched it. For the dream of God is unfolding before our very eyes, in this very place, and we know it to be true. For here, all are fed with the food of God, and none go away hungry. Here all are forgiven and none go away shamed. Here all are embraced with the greeting of peace, and none go away an outcast. Here all are seen for who we truly are, the beloved daughters and sons of the Most High God, not because of our wealth, or gender or orientation or station in life, but because we have all been made in the image and likeness of God who has declared our very being to be good.

The dream of God is real, and we come here Sunday by Sunday and day by day, not because we want to immerse ourselves in a fantasy, but because we want to be reminded of God’s reality. The dream of God is real, and we come here Sunday by Sunday and day by day, not because we want to lose ourselves in thoughts of some future, abstract and distant paradise, but because we want to experience that paradise today. The dream of God is real, and we come here Sunday by Sunday and day by day and know that dream is true, because here we are fed and forgiven and embraced and valued.

And because the dream of God is possible in this place, it is possible in every place. That is the reality of God’s dream. Because the dream of God is possible in this place, it is possible in every place and no election, no person, no event in history, can stop God from dreaming.

Yes, it takes commitment. Yes, it takes determination. Yes, sometimes it feels like we have taken a step backward. But in spite of everything, God goes on dreaming. And we come here, to remind ourselves that God’s dream is real.

Today we celebrate the paradox of Christ’s kingship as we enter again the reality of God’s dream for creation as we contemplate a king who reigns from a Tree and rides a donkey and welcomes a thief into paradise; a God who dwells among mortals; a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. When we share this dream, we not only share in the divine life of God but we begin to build the city of God’s dream here on earth.

I have been singing a hymn to myself a lot these past days. It’s not a hymn sung in this country very often, but it reminds me of the task ahead. It’s William Blake’s poem Jerusalem. The last stanza is: I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem In [this our] green and pleasant land.[15]

We have a job to do, and it is nothing less than sharing the divine life of Christ our King. And when we share his life, we build his kingdom, doing nothing less than establishing that new Jerusalem, not one day, or someday, but here, today, now, in this place. And we begin here, around this altar, standing beneath the Cross of Christ, eating Bread and drinking Wine in the company of people whom God has declared to be good, and worthy, and honoured.

If Christ is our King, and we are God’s people then the promise of paradise and the dream of God is real and our mission, which is nothing less than God’s mission, is to make it real for others. So let’s get back to work and not stop until we have built Jerusalem in this our green and pleasant land.

[1] Book of Common Prayer, 1979, page 214

[2] Genesis 1: 31

[3] John 1: 14

[4] 2 Peter 1: 4

[5] St. Irenaeus , AD 130 – AD 202, was an early Church Father and bishop of what is now Lyon, France

[6] St. Athanasius of Alexandria, c. AD 296 – AD 273. Many of the Patristic writers honoured by the Eastern Church speak of this as divinization.

[7] Luke 23: 43

[8] Jeremiah 23: 5, 6

[9] Isaiah 25: 6

[10] Malachi 4: 2

[11] Revelation 21: 3, 4

[12] Isaiah 52: 7

[13] John 3: 16, 17

[14] 1 John 1: 1 – 3

[15] William Blake (1757 – 1827); Jerusalem from the poem Milton. The poem is about the myth that tells us Jesus travelled to England as a boy in the company of Joseph of Arimathea and lived for a number of years at Glastonbury. It begins with the lines: And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

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  1. Jeanne DeFazio on November 25, 2019 at 09:55

    Inspiring hope is so important in these times. You have hit the nail on the head.

    Thanks for this reminder

  2. SusanMarie on November 25, 2019 at 07:49

    This is a really beautiful sermon. Thank you for an inspiring and uplifting message when the current times often seem heavy, dark, and void of hope. I will keep this to read often and especially when I doubt this dream can ever be real. Right now I believe it can. God, help my unbelief!

  3. Virginia W. Nagel on November 22, 2016 at 16:36

    Thank you for this sermon. It is so good to have a sermon firmly based on Scripture and the Church Fathers.

  4. Dianne Rader on November 22, 2016 at 12:09

    I love this reality; I love that it is not a dream. Thank you – so much to ponder and think about and rethink about in this sermon.

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