Message: When Dreams Become Quests
Scripture: Matthew 19: 23-26
In 1965, a new musical debuted on Broadway called the Man Of La Mancha. It was based on a story written by the poet Miguel De Cervafntes about Don Quixote, a mad man who fancied himself a medieval knight and whose quest was to return the world to a time of honor and chivalry, a seemingly impossible dream. Especially since the musical places the story in the context of the Spanish Inquisition, which was an effort by the Church, to eliminate all heresies and heretics from society. And so the story takes place when Cervantes is in prison awaiting his time to appear before the tribunal and while in the prison, he tells the other prisoners the story of Don Quixote, in an effort to save himself and his servant from them. Don Quixote is depicted as a man who refuses to see the bad in people and always hopes for everyone’s best self. That in contrast to the Inquisition tribunal and the other prisoners, who are constantly searching for the worst self. It is a show of deeply contrasting emotions and outlook on life. But it is also a story of transformation. Because in the course of his quest, Quixote meets a prostitute hardened by life. But Quixote views her as the ideal woman, the damsel in distress, and by the time the story is finished she has been transformed by Quixote’s dream. And the prisoners who begin wanting to take everything of Quixote’s – even his life – end up transformed by his impossible dream. The high point of the show is when Don Quixote shares his quest to achieve the impossible dream and he sings: To dream the impossible dream To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear with unbearable sorrow To run where the brave dare not go To right the unrightable wrong To love pure and chaste from afar To try when your arms are too weary To reach the unreachable star This is my quest To follow that star No matter how hopeless No matter how far It seems the point that Cervantes wanted to make was that Don Quixote’s impossible dream, seemed like the ravings of a mad man but it was really the world that had gone mad in light of the inquisition. But let me suggest that there might be an even more important point to consider, especially as we begin this season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, because it was when Don Quixote’s impossible dream became his life’s quest that transformation began to take place. Sometimes it’s those impossible dreams that we dare to dream that transform our lives and even our world Many scholars have settled on the year 4 B.C. as the year when the Angel came to Mary and so consider the state of the Holy Land in that year. It was part of the Roman Empire. The people of Israel, as they had for so much of their history lived their lives under foreign domination. The palace of the Roman Governor towered above Jerusalem and even the Jewish Temple, the dwelling place of God. Augustus Caesar was not just a king – he was considered to be a god. For the people of Israel, even though the Empire was a place of incredible excess and wealth, poverty was the rule rather than the exception. Beggars sat at the gates of the city. Most of the Jews were either near slaves or unemployed. Those who did work paid nearly 80% of their wages in taxes. The Temple officials, the priests and the scribes and the teachers had adopted an attitude of appeasement and in exchange the Romans let them run the Temple as they desired. The church was corrupt. They looked with scorn on the poor – those who lived outside of the walled city. Those who Jesus would later call the daughters of Israel because they had no standing – no place. They were the unclean, the sick, the starving. The hopeless. But they were not the first to live lives of darkness and despair. They stood in a long line. Now the Romans. But before them – the Greeks. And before them – the Babylonians and the Assyrians who had subjected the Jews to their rule and tyranny. Jesus said that the “daughters would always be with us.” But the daughters of 4 B.C. knew the prophecies concerning a Messiah, a Savior, a great King who would come one day and save them. And so even in the midst of their hopelessness and despair, they watched for the signs. Was this finally the time that the Messiah would come? Dispatch the Roman oppressors. Reconquer the promised land? Reclaim the Temple for God? Did they dare to hope? Did they dare to dream what must have seemed impossible dreams: of peace? Of joy? Of salvation? Of Freedom. It was a time when the impossible dreams found in the words of the prophets were mere whispers. Most could not hear them anymore. They had been replaced by the nightmares of everyday living. But in the year 4 B.C. God was up to something. As He had heard the cries of the people enslaved in Egypt and sent Moses to lead them home, He had once again heard the cries of despair and He was preparing to send a Savior, the long awaited Messiah. And He placed His impossible dream into two souls. First there was Mary. A teenage girl. Among the most vulnerable of all in Jewish society. We don’t really know a lot about her. Luke, in his Gospel gives us the most information about her and there isn’t much. We know nothing of her family. Just names in a long lineage. We aren’t sure of her age. Betrothed to a man named Joseph, who we know even less about. And yet God comes to her in a dream, an impossible dream, and in spite of her doubts and misunderstandings, Mary turns the impossible dream into her quest, into her life, and so Jesus comes into the world. Martin Luther once said paraphrasing an ancient Greek playwright: “you should never introduce God into the plot unless the plot has become so hopelessly tangled that only God can untangle it.” Well in 4 B.C. the people had given in to hopelessness. The dreams of a Messiah, the words of the prophets had faded into the past. Been relegated to that place where the grand dreams of life sometimes go to die when confronted with the tyranny of present reality. Perhaps you have dreamed those kind of dreams. Grand dreams. Hopeful dreams. Dreams of a better life. A better world. But sometimes reality intrudes on our dreams and things turn out very differently. And the dreams that once seemed so real, so reachable, become impossible dreams. The prophets always spoke the impossible dream of a Messiah when the people were at their lowest ebb. And for a time it kindled their hope, and restored their faith, and gave them the courage to move forward. But it was only temporary and soon the people would drift back into despair. And the impossible dream, if they even dared speak of it, faded into the past. The prophets of old had spoken of a Messiah who would bring peace and unity and joy to their lives. But that was then and this is now. There was no peace. There was no joy. Even this long awaited Messiah could not change the misery of their world. And then God intervened. He placed His dream into the heart of a simple maiden who would give birth to and raise the long awaited Messiah. At first it sounded to her like an impossible dream. “How can this be? It’s impossible” she says to the Angel. And the angel replies: “Nothing is impossible with God.” And Mary says “Then may it be so.” You see, I think the difference between this time and all the other times when the dream of the Messiah was expressed by the prophets, is that this time the impossible dream becomes Mary’s quest. The dream finds it’s embodiment and thus it’s fulfillment in Mary. Because she believed that ‘Nothing is impossible with God” In his book Mission Possible, Charley Reeb wrties this about Mary: Imagine the fears and doubts she had to overcome. All Mary knew were the risks. She risked being ostracized by her family and community. She risked rejection (by Joseph). She risked being humiliated. Yet knowing all that and risking all that, Mary said “yes” to God because she believed that nothing was impossible with God! She believed God would do what he said he would do. Mary was blessed because she believed. God does not bless us because of our ability; God blesses us because of our availability. You see, Mary got this. Mary got that it wasn’t about her. It was about what God could do through her. When we stop thinking about our limitations and begin believing in what God can do through us, life begins to open up for us. When we stop trying to control our lives and say, “God, you take it from here,” real life begins. And God’s impossible dreams find their fulfillment in us. The long spoken of but seemingly impossible dream of a Messiah, a Savior, became reality when Mary accepted it as her quest. When she said yes to God. And then there was John. John the Baptist. God placed in his heart a dream of righteousness. The dream of the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. But John did not simply dream of righteousness, he pursued it. It became the quest that drove his life. And so he set up his church along the banks of the river Jordan, just before where the waters flowed into the Dead Sea and were rendered without life. Just where the road that led along the Jordan River from Galilee in the north turned to go through the Judaean Wilderness to Jerusalem and the Temple. The road the Pilgrims traveled on their way to meet God. And His message was clear. Too clear for some. To truly live you must turn here and follow the path of righteousness that leads to God in His Temple and not stay on the path you are on which leads to the Dead Sea and death and destruction. His impossible dream was very similar to our vision, our impossible dream as a church of Jesus Christ in every life. John’s dream was to prepare lives for the coming Messiah. And so he baptized them in the Jordan River, cleansing them, preparing them. And then one day, God came to the Jordan and John baptized Him. The impossible dream realized in John’s quest for righteousness. I heard a pastor express it this way. The impossible dream of a Messiah was a dream of: *the selfish and rich scattered; *those who have been hungry have plenty to eat *the proud get lost lost in the the arrogant thoughts of their hearts, and weak are shown strength. *those who sit on the street corners begging for some change have more than enough to get through the day. *God lifts the needy from the ash heap; *the powerful, especially the oppressive, are brought down. It was a dream of peace on earth. Of joy filled lives. Of justice for all. Of righteousness. Of forgiveness and grace. Of a Messiah. A Savior. The impossible dreams of God that became the quest of Mary and John and found their fulfillment in a baby in a manger born into a world that had nearly forgotten how to dream. And so we come to Advent 2014. Do we dare to dream the impossible dreams of God? Or have we lost them in the midst of Ebola, and war, and acts of terrorism, hunger and homelessness and economic hardship, and political correctness? Have the voices that speak of a better world, a just world, a joy filled world, a world of righteousness and grace, simply become barely audible whispers in the midst of the moaning and groaning of despair in our world today? Recently a group of high school young people, teenagers about the same age Mary probably was when God placed His impossible dream in her heart, were asked to write down what newspaper headlines they would love to see. And here are the top responses that were given: *Peace Declared All Over Earth *Hunger And Poverty To Be Eliminated By Year’s End *No Reports Of Child Abuse In The US For Over A Year *Religious Tolerance At An All Time High *Vaccine For All Forms Of Cancer Discovered *Officials To Investigate Complete Absence Of Violent Crime Impossible dreams? Perhaps. The writer who conducted the survey makes this comment: “Wonderful dreams, but not very realistic,” you say. “Impossible!” And you would be right with such thinking. Human beings on their own will never bring such a thing about. In the words of scripture, “For mortals it is impossible . . ” And yet, there is a promise which is deep at the center of our faith that points to a spiritual truth that lies at the center of this season and calls us to be ready for God to intervene in the world, “but for God all things are possible.” So I ask you, this Advent, in the midst of a world that often seems as though it is spinning out of control, do we dare to dream, of a better world? Do we dare to dream of peace on earth, and joy filled lives? Do we dare to dream once more the impossible dreams of Christmas? But even more, do we dare to let the impossible dreams of Christmas become the quest of our lives? At first, Mary doubted that God could accomplish all of this through her. “It’s impossible,” she said. “But Mary” the angel said, “don’t you believe that all things are possible with God?” And she did. And God came and turned the impossible into reality. And in the midst of our doubt and despair, He continues to come. One writer says: Don’t listen to your doubts. Don’t listen to what (others) say. Listen to what God says about you and what God wants to do through you. No one ever did anything great for God by giving in to their doubts. Jan Paderewski was the Prime Minister of Poland immediately after World War 1 and led that nation to complete independence. He was a national hero. But in the early 1900’s he was known around the world as one of the greatest concert pianists ever. The story is told that as a young man he dreamed of being a concert pianist but that he was consumed by doubts in his ability that nearly derailed his career before it started. And as a young man he went to London where he was to play his first public recital. But he feared that he would not be given the chance to fulfill his dreams. So he asked another world renowned musician to write a letter of introduction for him, just in case he was not given the chance to pursue his dream. The letter was placed in a sealed envelope before Paderewski had a chance to read it. And so he took it with him and hoped that he would not need it. And sure enough, the instant he sat down to play the piano, all doubts about his talents were erased and he never had to use the letter. Many years later, he came across the letter and at long last opened it. It read: This will introduce Jan Paderewski, who plays the piano, for which he demonstrates no conspicuous talent. Statesman, hero, master pianist – but what would he have become if he had given in to his doubts and fears. Impossible dreams. What would we be today if Mary had given in to her doubts rather than make them the quest of her life? Impossible? No. All things are possible with God. Once more we are confronted with seemingly impossible dreams of peace on earth, and hope and joy, of a Savior. Will we dare dream them? this Christmas. Will we dare let them become the quest of our life? Because lives are transformed when God’s impossible dreams become the quest, the mission of our life?