Dream Big - Ephesians 3:20-21 (Wednesday Night Reflection)
How many of us here still dream? Now I’m not talking about the kind of dreams that come when we lay our heads upon our pillows at night or fall asleep sitting in our recliners watching television or reading a book—those are the dreams some of which bring a smile or maybe even a laugh from our lips, while others keep us tossing in turning all night. What I’m talking about are those dreams that we used to have when were a good bit younger—the dreams that would motivate us.
Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up. You’ll hear their dreams: a fire fighter, a police man, a doctor, a NFL or MLB star, an astronaut, a movies star, a singing sensation, the first woman president, or even developing superpowers to become an Avenger or member of the Justice League. You’ll hear dreams of a big house, fast cars, a new boat, or more money than any of us have seen before, like, maybe, a katrillion dollars. When we were younger, we didn’t have any trouble with dreaming big—we knew then that the impossible was within reach.
Yet somewhere along the way, dreaming those kinds of dreams stopped. Maybe we tried to fly like superman or ironman only to crash to the ground. Maybe we’re told by someone that if their voice sounded like ours that they’d never sing another note. Maybe a teacher tells us we aren’t smart enough to be an astronaut or a coach tells us we’re too small to play football. Maybe someone tells us there is no such thing as a katrillion dollars and so the house, cars, and boat seem just as out of reach.
What crashed your dreams? What made you stop dreaming those big dreams? Worse yet, what made you stop dreaming all together?
If we have stopped dreaming, then we need to hear these words from our reading tonight, as we are invited to start dreaming again…and not just dreaming small dreams…but dreaming big dreams…God sized dreams.
We aren’t being invited to start dreaming of superpowers, baseball careers, or even houses though. Our reading tonight is an invitation to start dreaming big dreams for God’s church.
This letter was written in a time in which the Temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed by Rome. It was a time in which Paul may already have been put to death in Rome, completing his sufferings for the sake of the Gospel. It was a time in which Christians met, most likely secretly, in homes while faced, publicly, with the ornate temples of the Roman gods and goddesses. It was a time in which immorality may have run rampant in the public square. It was a time during which infighting threatened the unity of the Church. It is into this setting that we hear the call for God’s people to dream big: “Now to him [God the Father] who by the power at work within us [the Holy Spirit] is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
We live in a society that is not a lot unlike where the church in Ephesus found itself. We live in a society in which immorality runs rampant—a society in which drug use is legalized and illegal drug use is on the rise…a society in which extramarital sexual relationships are commonplace, overlooked, and even affirmed…a society in which gossip flows more freely from the lips of those around us that the proclamation of the Gospel…a society in which many of us overeat, while others have nothing to eat. It is a society which finds many worshiping at the temples of wealth and power and pleasure more faithfully than gathering to worship Christ. It is a society in which faithful might not be martyred, however, attempts are often made to silence or sideline them. And we, particularly in the United Methodist Church, know how infighting threatens the unity of the church. At times, these things can become disheartening and seek to drag us down and tempt us to give up hope.
Today many churches also look at their declining and aging membership and feel limited or overwhelmed. Some look at past efforts to evangelize and focus in on failed attempts claiming that they’ve tried everything they can think of but to no avail and a sense of apathy or even hopelessness creep in…memories of former glory days fade and dreams begin to die.
It is to Ephesus and to us that we hear these words of hope, this doxology...this praise of God…offered up…Hear it now for a third time… “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
These words encourage us to have hope and to dream big. The hope comes in realizing that these words were not offered to megachurches…these words were not even offered to churches the size of ours…these words were offered to house-churches…congregations made up of likely no more than twelve or fifteen. They hear that God can and will work through them and more than they can imagine will be able to be accomplished…and if God’s promise that through twelve or fifteen, then our congregation IS a megachurch by comparison. The hope comes in realizing that these words were not offered in the church’s heyday but offered at a time when there were more unchurched than churched. The people of Ephesus were not told to act timidly or reservedly but to dream big, act big, to be bold in their efforts…why, because God is able to accomplish more through us that we could ever imagine.
Why can we dream big…why can we trust that we can do more than we could ever imagine in a society and under conditions that seem as stacked against us as they were for the folks in Ephesus? Because none of it is dependent upon our strength…it is dependent upon the power of God working in and through us…it is dependent upon the power of the One who’s very words spoke the stars and planets into existence…it is dependent upon the power of the One who’s very breath gives life to each of us…
We hear God speak through Zechariah: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Even though it seems impossible to the remnant [to the small number left] of people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me…”?
We hear the angel Gabriel respond to Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
We hear Jesus say, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
If we stop dreaming the dreams that God sets before us…if we stop imaging the ways that God might use us for His glory in this community and world…if we start declaring things impossible…then we are placing limits not on ourselves, but on God. We have to dream…and we have to dream big…for God can accomplish more than we can ever dream, if we just give ourselves over to Him.
Right now…tonight…I want you to take a moment to write down a dream you have for our congregation. Take the index card that you being given and write out a way that you imagine our congregation making an impact on this community, this Island and beyond to the rest of the world, for the glory of God.
As our closing song is being played…I invite you to bring those dreams forward…I will collect them and in upcoming meetings and other gatherings I will present them that we may dream together of where God may be leading us…
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you are part of our family at Harkers Island UMC and God is giving you a dream for His Church, please take the time to write it out and pass it on to Pastor Lee to be included with the others.