Do you ever recall your dreams? If so, are some of them kind of strange? How about nightmares? I usually recall my dreams when I wake up in the morning. Some of them are like movies--in color with lots of action and a large cast of characters.Every once in a while I dream in German or Hebrew, which I find humorous, as I haven’t taken a German class since the 1970’s and I only took one year of Hebrew while at seminary. Ever since Dad passed away in 2019, I have had numerous dreams that include him, in which I am usually searching for him; evidence that I am still in the process of grieving.
There is a type of dream people are having these days, called ‘pandemic dreams’. Weird, science fiction types of dreams. Evidently, these dreams are ways our brains are trying to cope with job loss, food insecurity, or of the footage we view on the evening news of medical professionals trying to revive a COVID19 patient in the ICU. These pandemic dreams may serve a purpose, but are not of the type any dreamer would recall with fondness.
The Bible is chock full of stories about people who have dreams--dreams that have a divine purpose. Whether a warning to King Abimelech not to take Abraham’s wife, Sarah, as his own wife (Genesis 20) to Daniels’ visions of the Four Beasts (Daniel:7), to the warning to the Magi not to return to Jerusalem after visiting baby Jesus (Matthew 2:12), God speaks through dreams to a variety of biblical characters.
In last week’s Church Notes article I talked about Jacob wrestling a man (God) during a dream , in which God torments Jacob as a way to help this ne’er-do-well turn back to his God (Genesis 32:21-32). Thankfully, Jacob changes his ways, and spends the rest of his life as a faithful servant of the Lord, setting in place his standing as a Patriarch of the Jewish faith.
God is not finished though with this important family that traces its roots back to Abraham and Sarah. God speaks to Jacob’s son, Joseph, through a couple of strange dreams, in which Jacob is portrayed as a mighty leader (Genesis 37: 1-28) . Unfortunately, Joseph has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth (talk about a chip off the old block!), and makes the mistake of sharing the dreams with his eleven brothers. The brothers, who are already jealous of Joseph because he is his father’s favorite son, end up selling Joseph to a group of travelling nomads in the hope that this trouble-maker of a brother will disappear forever from their lives. Naturally, this is not the end of the story. Joseph’s divine dreams become a reality with a happy ending that includes forgiveness, prosperity, and the family of Jacob reunited.
In spite of their faults, Jacob and Joseph were dangerous dreamers who turned their lives around and became faithful servants of God. In spite of their faults, Dietrich Bonhoffer and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were 20th century dangerous dreamers and great martyrs of the Christian faith. I believe all of us, in spite of our faults, have the ability to be dangerous dreamers. Within this chaotic time when pandemic dreams are part of the human struggle to make sense of a new reality fraught with uncertainty, pain, and grief, I believe that God is at work in the dangerous dreams of ordinary folk, moving the world forward toward a place of healing and hope and peace. The question I now propose is, are you a ‘dangerous dreamer’?