Sunday, May 19, 2013

"I have a ... strategic plan!" -- said no inspirational orator, ever.

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, May 12, 2013

`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

Fifty years ago this August, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of nearly a quarter of a million people. They were gathered there to be inspired. Because something in Dr. King’s message had touched something deep inside them. Because they felt history moving and they knew they just had to be a part of it.

And Dr. King looked out on that crowd, and the crowd fell hushed and the great man opened his mouth and said:

“I have a strategic plan.“

Wasn’t that what he said?

You know, King and the leaders of the civil rights movement did have a plan and it was strategic. They knew that the next step was lobbying Congress to ratify the 24th amendment that would eliminate poll taxes and other barriers to voting. They knew that once that was done they would mount massive voter registration drives and lobby the president and Congress to pass sweeping civil rights legislation.

They had a plan and it was strategic.

But that's not what he said. He didn't say, "I have a strategic plan" --  even though he did have one.

What did he say?

I have a dream.

Come on, say it louder!

I have a dream!

Yeah -- I have a dream!

Now, strategy is important. Tactics are important. Planning is important.

But those things do not touch us deep inside. Those things do not move history forward. Strategy, planning and tactics might get things done but they are not the reason we get things done.

The reason we are motivated to do great things is not because we make great plans

The reason we do great things is because God touches us. And we see visions. And we dream dreams.

We are wired for dreams. We are created in God’s image as people of awesome ideas, as people who long to be inspired, people who long to be part of something greater than ourselves. We are created in God’s image as people who aspire not for the perfect plan, but to prophesy and see visions and dream dreams.

We are created to dream because we are made in the image of a God who dreams. And God gives those dreams to us as gifts to share with God and with each other. And that is what this day is about.

Pentecost is to remember that we are dreamers with God.

In the words of Desmond Tutu, God says to us “I have a dream. Please help me to realize it. It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts.

Where there will be more laughter, joy and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing.”

God says to us, “I have a dream that my children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, my family.”

We are people of a dream. God’s dream. And God’s dream and ours is reconciliation. Of bringing together and making whole that which is divided and broken.

God’s dream and ours is for us is to be one. God’s dream and ours is a world where diversity doesn’t mean division but instead an opportunity to celebrate the many, many, many ways God can be expressed in the beauty of human life and all creation.

This morning we hear the Pentecost story from the Acts of the Apostles. And we hear some familiar things happen. We see the people touched by the spirit of God dreaming out loud. And we see other people confused by this .. and even thinking they are crazy or drunk. And then Peter says, no, they’re not crazy, they’re not drunk. This is what happens when God touches us. We don’t sit down and make a strategic plan, at least not at first. No.

We prophesy.

We see visions.

We dream dreams.

But there’s one other thing we notice from this Pentecost story. And that is that the group that was touched by the Spirit of God. The group of people that was given this gift of God’s word, of God’s dream to share and to live … was a very, very diverse group. It contained at least 15 different peoples from different races and cultures and languages and economic strata and political and theological viewpoints.

Think about that for a second.

God touched them all.

God gave each of them the gift of God’s spirit, invited each and all of them to share in God’s dream. And that meant that every single one of them had a piece of that dream that was integral to the dream of God being lived on earth … thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

We make a tragic and costly error when we believe that only people who look like us or believe like us or live like us or vote like us have exclusive claim to the spirit, word and dream of God. The truth of Pentecost is that God can and does touch all. And each is given a piece of that dream. And that all need one another. Because it’s not just any dream. It is the dream that we heard Jesus pray in last week’s Gospel before he went to the cross when he said, “that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me.”

You might have noticed something different when you walked into the Cathedral this morning. Something that has returned, perhaps?

The congregational banners that we took down a year and a half ago for the icons exhibition are back up. We’re putting them back up for a season – the season after Pentecost -- from now until the beginning of Advent. And during that season, we’re inviting the congregations of the diocese to dream with us a little.

To ask ourselves what it might look like to have this diocese truly live into Jesus’ dream of “that they may be one, as we are one” and what role this Cathedral as a gathering place for this diocese might play in that.

To dream how this space we share might represent the diversity of peoples of this diocese and our conviction that God gifts us all with a different piece of God’s dream.

To dream how in this society where we are characterized more by what divides us than what unites us. Where we are Fox News or MSNBC. Republican or Democrat. Rich or Poor. Black or White. And never the twain shall meet. To dream how this Cathedral might through our own embracing of God’s spirit resting on one another dream a different dream and offer a different vision for the world.

So for the next six months, I invite us to look at these banners and not think so much about whether we like how they look, but look at what they represent. And dream what it might be like to be a Cathedral where St. Peter’s, Ladue and Trinity, St. Louis gather at the same table and listen for God’s still small voice on the lips and lives of one another.

Dream what it might be like to be a Cathedral where All Saints, St. Louis and Trinity, Kirksville listen to one another’s stories and share their challenges and dreams.

Dream what it might be like to be a Cathedral that bears witness to a God whose dream can rest on all regardless of politics, race, gender, sexual orientation, or any of the other very real things that make us different from one another but need not separate us from one another.

We don’t have a plan for what will happen when we take the banners down at Advent. The plans will come. But for now, we have something more important and more lasting and more life-changing than any plan or strategy.

We have a dream.

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