We are at our best, we are at our very best when we are dreaming. When we set our vision on a horizon that has not yet come about and strive to make that horizon into a present reality, we exceed ourselves and can accomplish much and more.
Ours is a mindset that is focused, tightly and with great precision and accuracy on what is not yet, what has not yet come to pass, what is not yet true, what could be but hasn’t happened yet we are dreamers of dreams and builders of tomorrow.
Like a shark in many respects this is the hallmark of what it means to be us. If we slow down, if we stop seeing what can be at the edge of our vision than we start to die a little at a time, dream by dream because somehow, somewhere, someone told us it was a virtue to stay awake and live in the now.
I love this morning’s Gospel reading from Mark for just that reason. Jesus, coming home to a warm and celebratory welcome . . . wait, that’s not what happens. Jesus, coming home to the kinds of comments that would make Tony Robbins wonder if he’d got it all wrong and maybe he wasn’t that great after all.
Jesus doesn’t dwell on it though. The here and the now are just the starting line for what tomorrow are going to be in His plan so the next step is just that, the next step and Jesus gathers and sends out the disciples, two by two, no bread, not bag, no money.
We do not deny today we just aren’t satisfied with it, we do not fool ourselves into believing that today is all that there is, that we couldn’t do a little better and that is when we are at our best, when we are figuring out what is next.
When Jesus sends the disciples out two by two it is not to convert the world, to bring all who live under His rule, or to start a church, those things are farther off on the horizon, we take them for granted but they are not yet in this morning’s Gospel. Jesus does what is next and what’s next is telling people who do not know, that the kingdom of God is come near, that forgiveness is at hand, that repentance is called for, that the Messiah is among us.
That is what is next. The universal salvation, the drawing together of all nations, those are still on the horizon and Jesus has not forgotten the dream of them, but first things first.
So it is or ought to be with us, we are at our best when we dream big dreams of what can be and then set our faces like flint and go after what is next, then what is next, knowing that as soon as we reach the horizon, there is another horizon and another, goals to be achieved, enemies to be vanquished, hope to be restored, there is always another goal until the day when the pastor gathers a handful of soil, rich and dark and tosses it over our caskets and we are received into the arms of Christ at long last.
But sometimes, and really, only sometimes, we stop looking forward and dwell too completely in today’s troubles, taking our eyes off of the horizon in order to try and fix what is wrong today, trying to change today’s truth today. Our focus occasionally shifts from God’s vision for the whole of creation to what’s wrong today and how it affects us.
In these moments we have the opportunity to be truly mighty. I don’t mean mighty as in having a big army or the coolest navy in the world or more guns per capita than any other nation on earth or having the economic might to make other nations do as we choose; I mean mighty as in able to take what is true today and build a tomorrow upon it that is better, brighter, safer, dare I say holier?
I used to play pool, pocket billiards for you purists, at a pretty high level, having traveled to the national amateur tournament a few times and I really liked the game, but then, my eyes were younger then and I could focus on the entire table at once. I didn’t know how special that was until I could no longer do it.
As my eyes aged I had to pick, either the far end of the table, or the spot where my cue was to strike the cue ball and get things rolling. When I could focus on both, I was a pretty formidable player, nowadays, maybe just average.
When we keep our eyes on the horizon, but keep today’s troubles in mind we are practically channeling Christ into our lives as we seek for His future for our situation. That is really the goal of the sending of the disciples, to announce the coming of Christ into the world and to focus on that and know that through the grace of God, our mundane needs will be taken care of; living in the now, but dreaming of the soon.
When we can dream of tomorrow and work every day on what is next in order to get us there we are like pent up streams, dammed off by some industrious beaver or by humanity in search of a little power to grind their wheat, filled with the grace of God, filled with the peace which passes all understanding, waiting to see what is next so that we can release our bounty of blessings upon the world so that God’s will might be done.
We are at our best when we are dreaming of God’s world being built by God’s grace and by our hands in our very midst, as Blake wrote, “I will not cease from Mental Fight, Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand: Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green & pleasant Land.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather it was built right about here in Sonoma County.
We are at our mightiest when we hold that dream in our minds and yet see our world for what it is, sinful, broken, selfish and growing more so, without hope, angry and mean.
If we can focus on both ends of the pool table so to speak, and set ourselves the task of building better than we have right now, then we are mighty indeed.
It is only in turning back that we tend to get lost. It is only in thinking ourselves already arrived that we actually lose our way.
The disciples are told to just keep moving forward, not to count wins and losses but to keep up with the mission, keep moving forward, keep ministering today for a better world tomorrow, to keep their eyes on the horizon while their feet are here in the present.
They carry nothing because they already have everything, we already have everything we need to transform the world into something better than what we receive this morning, to transform it according to God’s will for us and for the world that all might find grace and feel it in their lives, healing them and making them agents of change even as we are agents of change.
They do not look back because the future is not behind them, the golden age is not behind them, the perfection of the world is not behind them. They merely wipe the dust from their feet if they are not received and move on, there are other opportunities, other darknesses to be lit with the lamp of faith.
I’ve always thought it odd that in a country where church and state are separated, on purpose because we essentially sailed away from Europe in search of religious freedom, I’ve found it odd that we do not acknowledge how much we have in common between the two.
We are all striving to live into a reality we have only dreamed of. Both of us are constantly trying to be better, to achieve more, to grow and prosper according to our beliefs, according to our values, according to the will of God in our case.
We have both been blessed beyond the imagination of the ancient world, America with fertility and fecundity and resources beyond measure, and the church, well, once you have salvation, you pretty much have everything, once the forgiveness of God has touched your life and healed you of your fear, then nothing is beyond your grasp.
Ezekiel describes his encounter with God in a vision “He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet.”
God’s Spirit enters into us and stands us on our feet and turns our heads to the horizon, out there where we are perfected in death. We are standing in the world as it is and we receive the world as it is but we are not stuck with the world as it is.
We can proclaim the kingdom, we can work to see that God’s will is at work in us, we can build toward that horizon instead of just waiting for it to sweep up on us. Cuz it at least is always on the move, God is not at rest in the world, God is active in the lives of the faithful just as this nation is active in the hands of those who roll up their sleeves and try and build a brighter tomorrow.
If we turn back and live in the past it is as likely to sneak up on us and whack us in the head as it claims us in the end.
If we, as Jesus commands us, stay awake, stay engaged in the world now while working for the world not yet here, the new Jerusalem, built on Sonoma’s green and pleasant land, then when we at last meet the horizon we will greet Jesus at long last, with open hearts and calloused hands, worn but strong from striving to see His will done.
We are aspirational people, born to tinker and to fuss, to work and to analyze and yes, criticize. That’s how we know that we can be better, because we see what is not yet, and work to make it so.
Happy Birthday to America, a nation founded on the notion of striving for a more perfect union, and blessings this Sunday to us all, a church that was already working on it. May God be with us, guiding, forgiving and empowering us to build toward a future where everyone, not just us, can live without fear.