This Dream of God.Â
Pentecost 19,Â Common Lectionary Year C
Â©2013 Rev Elisabeth R Jones
As I look around on this Sunday morning, I see generations before me. FirstÂ I see the gaps of those weâ€™ve buried in the last few years, Charles, Steve, Jim, Phyllis, Audrey, Margâ€¦ some of you can look and see the gaps of others I never knew. Then, of course there is you: – folk whoâ€™ve been part of this congregation for decades, some of you sit three generations deep!, – while alongside you are those who have journeyed here more recently, in the past 10, 5, 2 years, and in some cases, a few months!
As we shift around in the pews and in our collective ministries of service to one another and the world, to make room for one another, one generation with the next, our community changes. Our language and customs change with the generations too. Our hymns and anthems, our Sunday School curriculum, wall colour,Â the ways we communicate, or worship, or work or play together to build community, our understanding of God, Scripture, society and our faithful place within it, they all undergo transformation, change, and sometimes that change is uncomfortable, scary, we wonder why we do it. â€¦â€¦â€¦. Why am I telling you all this?
Well, because, as so often is the case, thereâ€™s been a conversation going on in my soulÂ and mind between this multigenerational, changing community and this crazy text from Jeremiah.
At first I thought it had little to do with us, after all, despite the fact that we are a community experiencing the growing pains of a lively church, negotiating new with old, tradition with innovation, our growing pains are at least that, signs of growth! We appear to have nothing in common with this community Jeremiah was called to serve! His was being decimated before their eyes. His communityâ€™s world was crashing into ruin; their once rock solid faith in a particular image of their God, and themselves in Godâ€™s world was crumbling like a mountain slide under the onslaught of an invasive empire with its own power-gods.
Whatever discombobulations we are facing must be miniscule in comparison, I first thought. But then again, look at what has happened to the Cedar Park world in 114 years; itâ€™s unrecognizable. look at what is happening toÂ the place of faith in our culture:Â itâ€™s frightening. look at what has happened to social structures once thought immutable, look at what is happening in personal lives: what catalogue of private torments could be constructed from your lives?? -Â a death, a diagnosis, an addiction, a relationship in turmoil, a child in troubleâ€¦. My soul says, as I read this text, and as I read this community, that the experience of a world, or our worldÂ changing, or worse, crumbling is still a world crumbling. The impact of change,Â the passing of generations, the uncertaintiesÂ about a future for faith, and for our community beyond this currentÂ generation, all these areÂ real experiences of the sort of change that rocks our world, knocks our confidence, makes us question our future, or our certainty of one.
So perhaps there is wisdom for our community from this strange text. And that wisdom looks -Â ridiculous. Â Perhaps we should no longer be surprised that the Good News offered by Jeremiah is a tale of ridiculous hope grounded only in a dream.Â (!!)
Jeremiah, weâ€™ve discovered, is a bit odd â€“ a bit of a fruitcake actually – which is perhaps to be expected after a 40 year stint as herald of destruction, and prophet of doom.
So when the world has crashed down around his ears, and he is now inhabitant of an 8 by 8 with no window, when all of Judah is now a wasteland, why wouldnâ€™t he go to such detailed, meticulous Â – and yes ridiculous -Â lengths to buy of all things, a field?
See what I mean by â€œridiculous?â€
Once weâ€™ve finished laughing him to scorn, we have to ask why? Why would a prisoner buy an enemy- occupied field heâ€™ll never live to set foot upon?
And Jeremiahâ€™s answer: â€œBecause God has this Dream.â€ God has this Dream â€œthat houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in the landâ€ (Jer 32:15) Yeah, right, with Babylon at the height of its power, stripping the land bare of crops, and people, no sign of life, let alone hope.
And on the strength of this â€œDreamâ€ a field is bought, a future is paid for with 17 shekels of silver. Â But ridiculous as it sounds, itâ€™s Gospel, because Jeremiah has had 40 years to get to know God by the time he buys that field. 40 years of peace, prosperity, comfort, security, followed by horror, war, eviction, imprisonment, pillage of land and people. 40 years in which Jeremiah discovers things about this God who Dreams that causes him to stake life, future, and riches upon.
God who Dreams, Jeremiah has discovered, is One who yearns, creates, delights, hears with compassion, responds with rescue. God who Dreams is One who is infuriated by pettiness and selfishness because selfishness destroys justice. God who Dreams is One who is fully engaged with creation in the processes of of loving, birthing, living and dying.
Jeremiah has seen, been heard by, l oved and shaped by God who Dreams into being wonder, possibility, and future, and hope. God is not constrained by death; we know this in Jesus Christ. God is about the business of resurrection, bringing life from death, freedom out of captivity, justice from oppression, faith from doubt, love from fear.
Because of this God who Dreams, Jeremiah buys a field!
Because of this God who dreams, 114 years ago, this church was planted in the West Island. Because of this God who Dreams, we are still here, still growing, still changing. Because God dreams into being life and hope and possibility and abundance, and growth, and reconciliation, and healing and mending, and radical welcome, and purposeful living, we are still here to put flesh on that dream now in the same way that Jeremiah bought that field to put flesh and bones onto Godâ€™s Dream then.
If you think about it, we are as ridiculous as Jeremiah! He bought a field because God dreamed a future for his people. We bought a green roof to shelter our childrenâ€™s children, despite those who believe the predictions of the demise of the protestant church in Quebec! We invest in childrenâ€™s ministry, and youth ministry, and healing ministries, in worship and discipleship, and in long-term social justice ministries, because of this God who Dreams of our future, God whose Dreams for the healing of body and soul, and relationships and nations includes us as the ones to put flesh and bone, heart and soul into making it come true. You know what, we even have a 5 year plan as meticulously crafted as Jeremiahâ€™s land purchase of his field, for the same reason: itâ€™s not just our crazy dream, not just our field weâ€™re buying, Itâ€™s Godâ€™s Dream!
And because it is, me, Iâ€™m going to help buy the field. And I hope youâ€™ll join me.