Visions and Dreams
Topic: Biblical Verse: Acts 2:1–2:21
The Feast of Pentecost
May 19-20, 2018
Joel 2:28-30 and Acts 2:1-21
“Visions and Dreams”
When you dream, what do you dream of? Crazy stuff? Funny stuff? Scary stuff? In our dreams we can be doing anything anywhere with people that we may or may not know at all. All of this is both weird and laughable at the same time. Most of the time, I don’t even remember what my dreams are about; they vanish as soon as I wake up. Experts tell us that dreams are the mind’s way of processing what is going on in life, and I believe that to be true. Today on the Feast of Pentecost, as we celebrate and give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit, we hear about dreams and visions in Peter’s sermon on that first Pentecost. Peter quotes the prophet Joel when he says: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:17-21; Joel 2:28-32). Taking our cue from Peter the apostle and Joel the prophet, the theme for today’s message on Pentecost is “Visions and Dreams.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Throughout Scripture, God spoke to his people through visions and dreams. Think of Jacob, who after he deceived his father, Isaac, and stole the birthright and blessing from his twin brother, Esau, fled for his life and dreamed of the ladder from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:1-22). Think of Joseph, who dreamed that his brothers’ sheaves of wheat all bowed down to him, and that even the sun, moon, and stars bowed down to him (Genesis 37:5-11), and who later interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and was able to avert famine and disaster in Egypt (Genesis 37:5-11; 41:1-36). Think of Isaiah’s vision of the Lord and the heavenly court, and having seen this despaired because of his sinfulness, but whose sin and guilt were removed by the burning coal taken by the angel from the altar (Isaiah 6:1-7). Think of Ezekiel who, along with his fellow exiles from Jerusalem, was now living in far-off Babylon. We hear of one of Ezekiel’s visions in today’s Old Testament lesson with the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), but who also saw visions of the glory of the Lord and the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:4-28), and the river of life flowing out of the temple of God (Ezekiel 47:1-12). Think of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, who in a dream was instructed by an angel of the Lord to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:18-25). Think of Peter, who in a vision saw a great sheet descend from heaven with all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds in it, revealing that “What God has made clean, do not call common,” thus opening the door for Gentiles to receive in faith the same Holy Spirit that had been poured out upon Jewish believers (Acts 10:1-48). Think of Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, whose missionary focus was re-directed when he saw in a vision a man from Macedonia who begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Think of John, the last remaining of the twelve apostles who was exiled on the island of Patmos for his faith, and whose vision of what is and what is yet to be is recorded in the final book of Scripture, Revelation (Revelation 1:9-20). We have a God who does indeed speak through visions and dreams, who in “many and various ways spoke to his people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a).
We all have visions and dreams for ourselves, don’t we? Where we want to go, who we want to be, what we want to do, but our own visions and dreams can sometimes deceive us and lead us astray. These must be filtered through the truth of God’s Word, which does not deceive or lead astray, but points us to our crucified, risen, and ascended Savior Jesus Christ. He is the Word made flesh, and in him all of God’s promises find their fulfillment. Having laid down his life as the sacrifice for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead in triumph over sin, death, and hell. He now is seated at the Father’s right hand where he rules his Church in love, and from which he will come again to judge the living and the dead. As Jesus pointed out before his ascension into heaven, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). It is that Spirit of truth whom we rejoice in always, but especially today on Pentecost. It is the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, who “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Lutheran Christians are most comfortable in the Second Article of the Creed, which focuses on the Person and work of Jesus Christ. When we get to the Third Article and the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, we’re on less comfortable ground. All the visions and dreams, the tongues of fire and speaking in tongues, make us a little nervous. But let us never forget what the role of the Holy Spirit is, as Jesus himself tells us in the opening verses of today’s Gospel lesson: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness…” (John 15:26-27a). That word “helper” means someone who comes alongside you, who speaks for you, who represents you; someone who has your back. The word has legal implications as in a counselor, advocate, or defense attorney. This is who the Holy Spirit is.
“And you also will bear witness…” The Spirit certainly called those first disciples to bear witness to Jesus, but also calls disciples of every age to bear witness to do the same. That is our calling in Christ. You may be wondering what that little red sticky note is doing in your worship bulletin today. Was this a mistake? Was somebody in such a hurry that they forgot to write their note on that little sticky note? No, but your help is needed here to discern what God’s vision and dream is for our congregation. In response to all that God in Christ has done for us, trusting in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who leads us to Jesus and his redeeming love, here is what I want you to do: record in a few words or a sentence on that sticky note what you believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to do within our congregation, in our community, and in our world. After the service, take your sticky note and place it on the display in the Narthex. This is not about jotting down gripes or complaints, nor is this a survey or vote. This is a sharing of what the Holy Spirit is doing and is poised to do among the Body of Christ at St. John’s Lutheran Church. Our ministry team, SJLC 2080, will compile these visions and dreams and by the Spirit’s guidance and direction, will shape and mold these into something that will move usforward in mission and ministry.
We’ll pray together and then you’ll have a few moments to write down your Spirit-given vision and dream. After we’ve had a little time to do this, we’ll then join in singing the hymn of the day, “O Day Full of Grace,” printed on page 12 in the worship bulletin. Let us pray:
Come, Holy Spirit, come, and fill the hearts of your faithful people with the fire of your love. Direct us always to the redeeming love of Jesus, and help us to bear witness to him in our lives. Help us see where you are at work in the world around us, that we may join Jesus on his mission. Show us what you would have us do and how best to do this for the sake of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.