READ: Mark 1.14-20
A few years ago when I lived in the Park Forest neighborhood of State College, I had a morning routine — or habit…
I would wake up, study my Bible and pray, get the kids ready for school, drive them to school and stop at Starbucks on the way into my newspaper office.
I’d always get a Venti Pike Place roast — Venti is Hipster language for “large” at Starbucks.
And almost every morning, I would pull up to the drive-thru window, and be greeted by the same woman.
She must have had the morning shift, Monday through Friday.
And that woman always had sort of a sarcastic, but funny expression as she said a little bit too cheery for her — or anyone’s disposition at 7:30 a.m., — “Good Morning!!!”
And then right back to deadpan expression.
To which I would reply and say, “How are you today?”
In which she would, about 99-percent of the time, reply:
“You know … Livin’ the dream…”
Granted there are worst places in the world to work, but for the most part, slinging upscale coffee to Hipsters for 8 bucks an hour at 7 a.m. really isn’t anyone’s dream, now is it?
I always wondered what her dream really was…
I regret never asking.
And a few years later now, and having broken this little routine — or habit… — I don't see the same woman there anymore.
I wonder if she’s off truly living her dream. I hope she is.
And what do even we mean when we say that?
What does it mean to be “livin the dream?”
Dreams come true when…
I think when we hear that phrase, we automatically think penthouse apartments, luxury sedans, corner offices and vacations in the Barbados.
But whatever those dreams are, they remain only dreams if we never act on them.
Dreams can come true; but, as our reading today in Mark’s Gospel points to, we actually have to “follow” those dreams, don’t we?
We actually have to do something.
So today, I want to talk a little bit about how Jesus models this turning-dreams-into-reality business.
And he doesn’t do it in some Disney-esque or fantastic way.
He simply acknowledges the dream and enables people to turn those dreams into reality by his very active and straightforward words:
Now, as a quick caveat or disclaimer, if any of this language so far sounds like the Prosperity Gospel to you — like Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar — you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
In no way, shape or form am I talking about material prosperity nor am I even in the least bit condoning it.
Step 1: Dream
OK, so maybe at this point, you’re saying, “Wait, pastor. I didn’t hear anything about dreaming in the Bible verses we just read…”
And I’ll just say, “Read it again.”
Because what’s really happening here?
At face value, we know just a few things:
John the Baptist, Jesus’s cousin who was fulfilling the prophecy to make ready the way for the Messiah, well, he’s been arrested.
And where John’s ministry leaves off, Jesus’s begins.
And we know all about the prophecies of who Jesus is and what Jesus will do.
That was the Advent and Christmas story into the Epiphany that we’ve been working through these last few weeks.
This great revelation.
Prophecy — dreams — being fulfilled.
So far, we’ve seen prophecies with John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
We’ve heard angles, shepherds, wise men, Simeon and Anna all prophesy.
And we continue to see the Apostles being called one by one.
They, too, know of these prophecies.
They know them very well.
Because they’ve been dreaming of such a time as this too.
A time when a savior — the Messiah — would come and rescue them from the oppression and persecution of their social and political climate in which they live.
These were dark days, but those dreams — those prophecies — they come in the night and rise out of darkness, don’t they?
* When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary, and then to Joseph in a dream;
* When the shepherds and wisemen were called under that great star at night;
* When Jesus was born in the still of the night.
And born out of the darkness of all their suffering came a dream of this Great Light.
And so the first apostles, Simon and Andrew and James and John, know too well this darkness, but they also believe so faithfully in this Light.
And beginning in Verse 16, Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee, and he approaches the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, who are fishing with nets, and Jesus says “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”
Jesus does the same for James and John, who are working on their nets.
They hear Jesus call, and they immediately follow.
Step 2: Follow the Dream
What were they following?
Did they know Jesus at that point?
Or did they dream of such a time. Such a hope. Such a Savior as this?
See, Jesus’s call to them to follow was like saying:
“All those dreams you have dreamed for a better world. They start right here when you take a step toward me.”
I repeat, to make a dream come true, we have to actually follow it.
Otherwise, we’re nothing more than dreamers.
See, being prophetic means being able to imagine a new and better future.
That’s what being prophetic means.
One of the most prolific songwriters and prophets of our day remains Bob Dylan, who, many might not know, but converted to Christianity back in the 1970s.
Many of Dylan’s biggest and most important songs talk about eschatology: The fancy seminarian word for end times.
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
See, Bob Dylan could very easily just have thought about these words.
He could have studied Scripture and even meditated on them for days on end.
What he chose to do instead is to pick up his guitar and his harmonica and STAND UP and proclaim those profound words to a world that in 1964 came in the midst of clearly one of the most tumultuous and frightening times in the history of the modern world:
Not just the Vietnam war, and not just race riots. But the real and immediate danger in nuclear proliferation and what that could mean for the destruction of the world.
What is more prophetic than to say the times are changing, and we better work toward salvation?
Dylan’s prophecy that if we don’t work toward a better world, we’re just opening the flood gates to the apocalypse — the end of humankind in this world.
Does this eschatological and prophetic language sound familiar?
Yes, because Dylan goes to Scripture for it.
He’s singing about a new flood.
As in Noah’s Ark. The Great Flood. Genesis 5-10.
Listen: prophecy is no more that a dream if we aren’t working toward making that future happen.
John the Baptist’s ministry was prophetic.
He understood what the Messiah meant to the world.
But he could have been just some sidewalk prophet, speaking the truth to those who would listen.
“Repent, the time is near!”
But he didn’t just dream; he acted.
He put himself into dangerous places to proclaim that future with his message of repenting — turning away from old ways — and baptizing people with water as a symbol of that new future.
John spoke truth and life.
And he died doing it.
Jesus’s ministry picked up where John’s left off.
Speaking of the Good News of God’s kingdom.
But he didn’t just speak about that future; he lived it.
He taught. He healed. He argued. He accused.
And his most important work was there on the cross — making the prophecy come true.
Surely, we know his walk to Golgotha, the place of the skull where those two planks of wood and three nails awaited him.
The disciples witnessed the words and the acts of this prophet named Jesus.
But they could have just listened to the words and watched the acts and have been happy knowing they would be given this gift of eternal life.
All for grace, not of their acts.
But Jesus wouldn’t stop there.
And they knew they had to put his dream into motion to make it a reality.
Again, last week, we began seeing the apostles putting the dream into action, turning from their past lives and following Jesus.
And today, we read about Simon, Andrew, James and John dropping everything in their past lives and following Jesus.
Putting it all behind them and stepping forward.
With that motion, they put the prophecy into motion and work toward making the dream of a new future come true.
It never surprises me when the Bible speaks directly into something this church is doing or needs to hear week in and week out.
But it’s cool nonetheless…
Later today, we will partake in the Baptism of baby Malcolm DeCosmo.
In a very profound sense, what we’re doing is helping Malcolm begin putting this very same dream into reality for his life, and for the life of the world.
We could talk about Baptism, and even say all the words in the liturgy.
That’s the prophetic part.
But we also must put that prophecy into motion.
It’s what Jesus calls us to do!
And we will do just that — not just the parents, but ALL of us here today — by vowing, PROMISING, to help little Malcolm reach a place in his faith journey where one day HE will decide on his own whether to follow Jesus.
And we will faithfully pray that he does.
Today, we are putting the dream into motion.
When Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James and John off the beach, Jesus is putting the dream into motion.
You see friends, we could come here week in and week out and hear and even speak prophecy here — and I think we do that well.
We hear those words of Jesus calling us: “Follow me!”
And we vow, “I will follow!”
And we leave here, but like Bob Dylan, are we picking up our guitars and harmonicas and standing up and proclaiming the prophecy?
Are we content to sleep deeply through the dreams and visions and prophecies that Jesus calls us to?
In his seminole book, The Prophetic Imagination, one of the most influential and important theologians of our time, Walter Brueggemann, tells us that prophetic imagination is dreaming of a new and better world and then working to make that dream a reality.
No doubt about it: Prophecy is a two-part equation.
Dreaming and doing. Imagining and implementing.
John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John, Thomas, Philip, Matthew, Bartholomew, James, Simon the Zealot and Matthias and even Paul were killed for setting those dreams into reality.
John Wycliffe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Annalena Tonelli, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Martin Luther King, Jr. … The list goes on and on through the ages…
It’s easy to prophesy, but it’s hard, uncomfortable and even sometimes dangerous to work toward making those dreams come true.
Thank God, we don’t have to do that on our own.
Praise God for the Holy Spirit who gives us the word, the strength, the courage and the vision to speak life into the world.
Prophetic plan of action
See, when John the Baptist came onto the scene, he knew who was coming up on his heels.
The Jews also were awaiting the Messiah, but they were passive.
Going about their day-to-day lives.
They knew of the dream, but they failed to imagine what that dream would look like in real life.
They failed to understand that the Kingdom was coming.
John preached Repent! Turn away from that complacency and open your hearts to the Messiah.
Jesus came to Galilee, Verse 15, saying the exact same thing:
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the Good News!”
See what Jesus did there? John just says Repent — which means to turn away from…
Jesus says Repent AND believe in the Good News.
Both are active; but Jesus’s next step — believing in the Good News means to take that great step in faith to know, love and trust in the Messiah.
Your prophetic plan
We can say the exact same thing today:
Turn away from your complacent slumber.
BELIEVE that the kingdom is near.
Start swimming, or you’ll sink like a stone….
Not simply because of what we stand to lose;
but everything we stand to gain.
We talk a whole lot here about changing the world one life at a time, one action at a time, one prayer at a time…
Those are true words.
But they are just words if we’re not actually doing them.
They’re just dreams until we work to put them into action.
Christ calls us to imagine that changed world.
What does it look like to you?
We really need to get creative.
Because if you’re like Jesus, you see this house filled to capacity on Sunday mornings.
When was the last time you invited someone to come to church with you?
If you’re like Jesus, you see this house alive with activities that bring the community to this house every day of the week and transforms lives.
What ministry do you participate in here? When have you invited someone to join a ministry?
If you’re like Jesus, you see a world where you’re not afraid to walk through your own neighborhood in the night.
Do you know the names of your neighbors?
If you’re like Jesus, you see healthy and happy children who never have to worry about abuse, where their next meal would come from, or whether mom or dad were going to come home tonight.
When have you shared the Good News with a child and his or her family or volunteered with children?
If you’re like Jesus, you see people who want to be the ones who make the world a better place and save future generations the last of cleaning up after our selfish and arrogant messes.
Ask: Through my purchases, am I enabling corporations to manufacture products that are detrimental to the earth?
And if you’re like Jesus, you hold our governmental leaders to high moral standards that treat all people equally and with equal respect, and you forget about party lines, and you follow God’s will and Jesus’s teachings to love one another as I have first loved you!
Tonight, in the comfort of your own bed, absolutely pray, sleep and then dream with great imagination.
But in the morning, don’t you dare let those dreams disappear in the Starbucks drive-thru…
Take a prayerful step in turning those dreams into reality.
It all starts here together, with the examples we learn from the Bible.
We need to consciously take those examples into the world and work hard to make them a reality.
This place, this house, is where we dream.
Outside of these doors is where God calls us to make these dreams come true.