"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Have a Dream

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.  (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

I'm young enough to easily say that one of my heroes, trite those this seems, is Martin Luther King, Jr.   His writing alone is enviable, never mind the amazing things for which he stood.  Of course, I didn't live through those times.  I don't know what it was like to have to deal with this thing that seemed to completely fly in the face of "But it's always been that way."  Wait, maybe I do understand.  And maybe that's another reason I admire him.  Because he was able to dream of better when it was just that-- a dream.  He was able to hold a vision in the midst of living in a world that told him he was wrong to hold such a brazen hope.

Probably someone will tell me I'm wrong too. Somehow dreams are like that.  One person's dream threatens another's comfort.  But still I have a dream.

I have a dream that our love for Christ may change who we are-- that it spills over on to everything we do, enabling us to really love each other-- even more than we love to call attention to our differences.  I have a dream that love becomes the most important thing we do, more important than practices or politics or polity, more important than gatekeeping or glowering... or dare I say it, even growing.  But of course there's the "Begat Rule": Love begets love.  So if there is love, there will be growing too.

I have a dream that we begin to pay attention to what Jesus did and did not say, and that we stop incorrectly attributing words we want to hear to Jesus.  Jesus had a peculiar need to use "All" and "Every" with alarming regularity.

I have a dream that when we hear "Do not be afraid", we take that every bit as seriously as the "Thou Shalts." Fear is all to often at the heart of decisions in the church. We are fearful that people will take their marbles and go home, fearful that we won't meet the budget, fearful that the church will change, fearful that what the church has always stood for is in jeopardy.  We are even fearful that grace is too extravagant, and that some how, it must be for only perfect people.

I have a dream that "Behold, I am doing a new thing" might indeed be good news, not a source of sheer terror, and that we may hear "Sing a New song" as an invitation rather than a threat.

I have a dream that we might be Christians Who Get It Right, not people, who in the name of Christ, perpetuate smallness.  May we take notice of the world around us and feel responsible for it and all things created, including people, including people we don't like.

I have a dream that the Church might be a place of authenticity and genuine hospitality, that having the right answers may not be nearly important as having the courage to ask the hard questions.

I have a dream that the Church may have a more grand and glorious mission than pointing fingers and drawing lines.  I long for the day when mouths are only used for building up the community, not tearing it down, and when hands are only used to extend love and forgiveness, not to bear witness to hate.

I have a dream that the Church may be filled with people of all generations.  Each has something to offer to the others.  One generation cannot be catered to at the exclusion of the others, for all are necessary to the vitality and mission of the Church.

I have a dream that "church" may be something more than a Sunday habit or a "necessary to-do" in order to get in line for heaven.  I dream that that the community is so inviting, engaging, real and hospitable that it's the highlight of all the things we do.

I have a dream that the church will begin to see itself as a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.  It's the people that have missed the mark, and been beaten down by the world that most need the church.  Of course, though, people who judge themselves to be saintly might need a place to heal just as badly as anyone else.  The thing about hospitals is that they take anyone who needs them, not just the ones who look nice or speak well.

I have a dream that the church will rise up from the ashes of mourning yesteryear, and become the bold and vibrant pheonix that is a living testimony to resurrection, as well as The Resurrection.  I dream of the day when our songs (not just the ones we sing on Sundays, but the ones we live) no longer sound like death marches, but joy-filled jigs.

I have a dream that the church will be loosed from notions of comfort and safety and "right", that we will be set free from all things that hold us captive.

When I saw this, I knew that it was a glorious visual representation of my dream. Because at the heart of my dream for the church (not just "mine" but the church universal) is creating this joyful playground of sacred and ordinary, a place where people in tuxedos (or 3 piece suits) can break it down with those wearing hole-y jeans, a place where all can play a part and know that their presence changes the whole symphony for the good.  I dream of a place where a little child, who can offer only a smile, is as important as the grown-up ringleaders.  I have a dream that the church becomes so grand a song that any who are near enough to hear want to join in, and that all who leave do with a memory of having their world rocked by such an encounter.

Yeah, I have a dream.