Easter 6C Listening to Dreams
May 1, 2016
Do you dream?
Or I guess since they say we all dream, a better question is,
“Do you tend to remember your dreams?”
I’ve always thought it strange but I know it works…
that if you remind yourself before you go to sleep to remember your dreams,
chances are you will!
It also helps to keep a notebook next to your bed
so that you can write them down as soon as you wake up.
I’m a believer that God can work through our dreams.
Our brains are at work while we sleep,
making connections among the things we’ve seen and the experiences we’ve had throughout the day.
And sometimes, dreams bring us answers…
sometimes they bring new inspiration…
(sometimes they bring a sermon!)…
The apostle Paul was having a rough go of it.
When we read about Paul and the other apostles’ activity in the book of Acts,
we usually read about their successes:
3000 people baptized in one day;
people listening and joining in the movement;
new members every day – wow!
Throughout the book of Acts,
so many people are joining the church
that the authorities get anxious and haul Paul in time and time again for questioning!
Yet even the times Paul and his companions are sent to prison
feel like “successes”
because they sing and preach in jail,
and the prison guards end up being converted by their message!
That’s happened to us, right?
We’ve had times in life when we’re in ‘the zone’….
everything seems to be going well.
Kids are doing well in school.
Work is great.
The Caps are winning.
We’ve had periods of time where whatever it is,
one thing after another just seems to be falling in place.
I’ve noticed I don’t seem to remember my dreams as much then.
But “the zone” doesn’t usually last forever, and in this section of the book of Acts,
(this little-read section of Acts),
things are not going well for Paul.
He’s hit a bump in the road.
It didn’t go well in Asia – Acts is referring to Asia Minor – the area of modern day Turkey.
Acts says that there “Paul was forbidden to speak.”
So Paul goes nearby to another part of Turkey to Bithynia …
but there too, there’s no one who listens.
He ends up spending the night in a town called Troas.
I’m guessing that he was experiencing some frustration.
Questioning himself perhaps?
Had he lost it?
Had he lost this gift?
Why wasn’t anyone responding?
We’ve been in that place too.
We’ve been in the opposite of ‘the zone’ – whatever it’s called.
We start to question ourselves, feeling inadequate.
I like the advice of marketing guru Seth Godin.
Every day I get a brief blog post from him in my mailbox –
his ideas on marketing are really quite spiritual.
This is what he says about failure.
He says, “feeling like a failure has little correlation with actual failing.” [i]
Own the feeling.
Own the feeling –
but also own the fact that feeling like a failure is not the same as being a failure.
I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling like I’ve failed,
I’m more likely to remember my dreams.
That night in Troas, Paul goes to sleep,
and he has a dream.
He has a vision during the night where he sees a man of Macedonia pleading with him.
The man says, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
It was exactly the inspiration Paul needed.
The next morning Paul immediately heads to Macedonia.
So do you tend to remember your dreams?
Have you ever made a decision based on little more than a dream?
I’ve had a number of powerful dreams over the years,
but there’s one that still amazes me whenever I think of it.
If I didn’t still have my journal where I wrote down the dream
and a picture of what happened,
I’d be tempted to think that I imagined the whole thing.
It was about 15 years ago.
Most of you know that at that time I was working as a primary care doctor.
I went on a mission trip to Peru.
The trip was to a remote village in the Amazon jungle.
It wasn’t easy to get there.
We took a plane from Boston to Lima where we picked up supplies;
our goal was to help build a fish farm.
It wasn’t a medical mission trip,
but when the leader heard I was a doctor,
before we got to the village we stocked up on vitamins and anti-parasitic drugs.
From Lima, we took a small plane (the kind where they weigh you and your luggage)
to a little town in the north of Peru.
And then two at a time we were airlifted over the mountains to an airfield next to the Amazon.
But the trip wasn’t over.
We got into these rough-hewn canoes and our guide led us down the Amazon
for about an hour,
after which we gathered our stuff (and yes – I had a suitcase and not a backpack!) and hiked from the beach up into the jungle.
The village was made up of about 30 families –
they lived on huts built up on stilts.
My job was to give out vitamins and anti-parasitic drugs,
and to give talks on hygiene – things like boiling water, and washing hands.
One night I was lying on the floor in my sleeping bag,
and I had a dream.
I dreamed that one of the women in the village gave birth
and I was asked to help.
I woke up and wrote down the dream.
I went through my head the things I remembered from my ob/gyn rotation in med school
about delivering a baby.
I made a mental note about what I could use to tie and cut the cord.
The next morning, after lunch,
someone from the village gave me the message that a woman
was delivering a baby at that very moment and was having difficulty.
They walked me to her hut – and left.
I found the new mother squatting on the floor;
she had just delivered a baby girl,
but the cord was still attached and the placenta wasn’t coming and she was losing blood.
Prepared from my dream, I didn’t have to hesitate – I took the shoelaces off of my hiking boots,
tied the cord and cut it with a machete I found in the hut.
The placenta was delivered,
and although things were a bit rocky the next couple of days,
both mother and baby survived.
I have a picture in my office.
I try to listen to my dreams after that.
I can’t explain it,
but I am convinced that God uses our dreams.
Paul has a dream –
a vision during the night of a man from Macedonia
who says to him, “Come and help us.”
He goes, he meets Lydia and her household,
and the first church in Europe begins.
Where is God leading you?
Maybe it’ll come in a dream.
May we listen.