I Have A Dream
I Have A Dream
How many of us have had a dream recently? What did you think of when I said ‘dream’? Was it “a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep?” Or was it “a vision voluntarily indulged in while awake--a daydream? Or was it “an aspiration; a goal; or an aim?” Or was it “a nightmare--a dream that brings fear or anxiety?” Or was it a vision—"a series of images of unusual vividness, clarity, order, and significance, sometimes seen in a dream.” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/dream)
If you had a dream during sleep recently, do you remember it? And if you remembered it, did it make any sense? This is often the conundrum, many of us do not remember our dreams and the ones we do remember are often seem bizarre and do not have a clear meaning. Dreams have a prominent role in today’s Gospel reading for the Sunday after the Lord’s Nativity from Matthew 2:13-23. Three dreams are mentioned, and they all happened to Joseph the Betrothed of Mary. In the first, an angel of the Lord warns Joseph to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape the murderous King Herod (v.13). In the second, an angel of the Lord tells Joseph to return to Israel with his family after the death of Herod (v.19). In the third, Joseph is warned about Herod’s son, Archelaus, and goes instead further north to Nazareth in Galilee (v.22-23).
This is not the first time Joseph had a dream for we heard last Sunday that an angel of the Lord advised him to take Mary as his wife when he discovered she was pregnant (Mt.1:20). Nor were these the only dreams relating to this situation for we heard on Christmas day about the Wise Men being warned in a dream not to return to Herod after they found the newborn King (Mt.2:12). All of these dreams are clear interventions by God to bring about His purposes and plans. So, why is that we cannot get such crystal-clear divine messages in our dreams? Why can’t we be like the Old Testament Patriarch Jacob who dreamed of a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it (Gen.28:12-17)? Why can’t we be like Jacob’s son Joseph who dreamed of his future greatness in Egypt (Gen.37:3-11) because he would be able to correctly interpret other person’s dreams (Gen.40-41)? Why can’t we be like the Prophet Daniel who also achieved greatness in Babylon because of his ability to understand and interpret dreams (Daniel 1,5)? Why can’t we be like the Emperor Constantine, whom Christ appeared to in a dream telling him to conquer with the sign of the Cross (312AD)?
Well, it is important for us to remember how exceptional these examples are. Of the hundreds, if not thousands of persons mentioned in the Scriptures, there are only a handful who receive divine revelations in their dreams. We must also remember the warnings that God gives about dreams and dreamers. The most profound is found in the Second Book of Laws given to Moses, also known as Deuteronomy:
1“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. (Dt.13:1-4)
So, in other words, even if someone can accurately dream about the future or interpret dreams correctly, if they are telling you something contrary to God’s will or commandments, don’t listen to or follow them. The Church continued to condemn these practices as it was common in Roman society and pagan religion to interpret dreams. There was even a ‘professional’ class who interpreted dreams for payment (St. Basil’s Letters, 210). Thus, auguries (soothsayers, prophets), divinations and other such practices are understood as not in harmony with Christian belief (Canon 65 of Sixth Ecumenical Council 692AD in Constantinople; see Harakas: The Orthodox Church: 455 Q & A, #422 on p.322).
Perhaps, it would be helpful for us talk about dreams in the context of an aspiration or a goal. Fr. Anthony Coniaris, in his book Meet Jesus in the Sunday Gospels vol.2, shares several examples to understand these kind of dreams. First, “the German philosopher, Ernst Bloch, was right when he said that the reliable clue to a person is not what he dreams at night about his past, but rather what he dreams during the day about his future.”
Second, we remember Thomas Edison, who was another great dreamer. It’s astonishing how many inventions he produced: the electric light, the telegraph, the teletype, the phonograph and motion pictures. Some have called him the man who invented the 20th century. And he did it with less than six months formal education. What is often forgotten, is that Edison was a deeply religious person. He believed that God gave man no problem for which he would not also provide a solution.
Thirdly, often the dream we have of ourselves may not be the dream that God has for us. For example, Minnesota’s own Senator Hubert H. Humphrey dreamed to become president of the United States. He tried twice and missed both times, the first by less than 1% of the popular vote. Apparently, God had a different dream for Humphrey, that he would be known as humble servant of his country, whose character earned him the respect of even his political opponents, and whose name would appear on several prominent buildings and institutions across our nation. So, if your first dream is not fulfilled, look for the substitute dream God has for you!
Fourthly, one person’s dream has the potential to positively change a nation, a society or a culture. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is universally known for his famous speech, “I Have a Dream” …that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today that one day down in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today that freedom will reign from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside let freedom ring, and when this happens, when we allow freedom to reign, when we let it reign from every state and every city, we will be able to speed the day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands, and sing in the words of the Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we’re free at last.”