Live the dream…
Matthew 16: 21-28
Many of us can share a dream of seeing the world turned upside down, but unless we wake up and live the dream nothing much will change. The world chose not to wake-up to Martin Luther King’s dream and America today is still in a state of racial turmoil.
It was the anniversary of his ‘I have a dream’ speech on Friday in which he hoped that “one day people would not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ It’s what I call an ‘inside out’ ministry that will turn the world upside down and it’s what the gospels are all about.
We can read the Word. We can hear the Word. We can see the Word. God wants us to know the Word and live the Word so we can even dream the Word, but the world doesn’t like idealistic dreamers or radical teachers so we are still waiting for the world to be turned the right way up!
We have shaped the world into our image of tradition and expectation, but God invites us to look at each other with an inside out vision, in a back to front way so that we will turn the world upside down to put it the right way up! Sort that riddle out and we’ll share a dream!
As children we probably all had selfish dreams of what we would do with our lives, but dreams only happen if we wake up and make them happen. Because of a dream the Magi took a different route home to avoid danger and Joseph was encouraged in a dream to get up and escape to safety so Herod wouldn’t find the child Jesus and kill him. (Matthew 2: 12-13) Dreams can be the source of life!
We can dream our dreams, but we won’t live them unless we work for them. Some people think that Martin Luther King was a dreamer and died a dreamer, but he never ceased advocating a philosophy that many dismissed as idealistic. King, and others like him, dreamt of a kingdom to come, but such dreamers, prophets or visionaries always have doubters among their followers.
There has to be a safer way. There has to be a cheaper way. There has to be a better way. How much time and effort do we invest in looking for a different way when there is only one way — and that’s the Jesus way? “No,” we say like Peter, “surely there has to be a quicker way!”
We confess, like Peter, that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” and then start telling him what we want him to do for us when we should be asking him what he wants us to do for him. It’s reflected in our prayers as we ask for this and that from God, but neglect the question of how and what we can do for God.
Last week I asked the question WHO DO I SAY JESUS IS and my answer is that he is the stranger who inspires me through the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked and the broken. (Matthew 26: 31- 45) As I see how Jesus lives in them I am encouraged and inspired by my Rock, my Shepherd, my Friend, my Saviour, my Healer, my Everything. Then, instead of asking myself what can Jesus do for me I am asking what can I do for Jesus?
The question is asked with the best intent, but when I don’t like the answer I ask whether we can do it a safer way, a cheaper way or a better way because that’s how the world thinks and I don’t understand the mind of God. I want my bread to eat before listening to the Word, to throw myself into foolish projects for God to save me from failure and then to achieve all my dreams and have all I could ever want from the world. (Matthew 4: 1-12) Sorry, but there is only one way and that’s to worship the Lord our God and serve him only. Satan is the stumbling block to the will of God being done through us.
Jesus is introducing us to an “inside out” and “back to front” ministry that will turn the world “upside down”, but the disciples didn’t get it and we don’t get it either. It doesn’t make sense to the world. It’s the stuff of idealistic dreamers!
The world doesn’t make a lot of sense to God either, but when we’ve lost everything we might come to our senses and realise that we have sinned against heaven and our Father! (Luke 15: 21) As we grow in faith — and get to know Jesus better — we learn that there is only one way to the truth that will show us the way to life in the Kingdom of heaven. (John 14: 6) The disciples didn’t understand that at the time and it wasn’t until after the resurrection that they were turned ‘inside out’ by their experiences alongside him.
The clothes we wear, the shape of our bodies, the look in our faces, the colour of our skin and the tears of our eyes hide who we are and it’s the shape of our heart that expresses God’s love and brings us together as brothers and sisters. The world doesn’t see the inside of the person, only the outside, but Jesus turns our ministry ‘inside out!’ I dream of inside out people turning the world upside down.
The kingdom of heaven will come when God takes priority so money is scattered, tables overturned as the market place is dismantled with the dealers sent packing and prayer is restored. (John 2: 14-16) That was the place of business, the hub of prosperity at the heart of the place of worship, but it can’t continue if the dream of the kingdom is to be lived on earth as in heaven. When the world is turned upside down prayer comes before all our business interests. I dream of a world in which every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus and every tongue shall confess him King of glory now.
It was hard for Peter to understand because we dream of wearing crowns which display wealth and authority not carrying our crosses of suffering. We want to put down our pain and struggle; to leave behind our suffering and persecution, but Jesus calls us to deny the smooth and easy way and pick up what we least want to carry to achieve what the world needs most. It’s all upside down, isn’t it? The world expects everything to be one way and God wants it the other way, but what do we want? What do you want? Have you got a dream of how life could be? The crown for yourself or your cross for the world?
We will find our dream with our inside out vision and in a back to front way because we are invited to go back to the beginning and bring the WORD to the front of our life today. Jesus is the WORD living among us in human flesh as the light in the darkest places and love in the most despairing times. Jesus is the source of life and the template for all my dreams, but for many people he has been pushed to the back of history instead of the front of our plans for the future.
The Word is what God wants us to know better so that we can make it better known and that Word is an expression of love that will turn the world upside down. It’s not a civil rights speech to encourage black people, but a gospel message to reconcile all people. King dreamt of the day when all God’s children, black and white, Jews and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, would join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”
Like Peter we don’t like what we hear and will suggest a safer way, a better way and a quicker way because we’ve been waiting long enough for the dream of freedom to be fulfilled. We challenge the authorities not by picking up stones or guns or molotov cocktails, but by picking up our cross that represents our suffering and carrying it with us.
Our cross, whether we are black or white, Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, is the pain and suffering that is inside us and we can help each other carry it with a love that is prepared to be sacrificed so that new life can be found. Jesus commands us to love each other as he has loved us so I dream of an inside out people who will turn the world upside down with hearts shaped by the love Paul wrote about to the Church in Rome……
(Romans 12: 9-21)
Let’s wake up and live the dream of a sincere love that will turn the world upside down!