"Tell Them About the Dream"
January 16, 2022 Rev. Drew Stockstill
1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. 4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7 Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. 9 I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” 12 Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.”
“Tell them about the dream, Martin.” “Tell them about the dream.” That was the call to prophecy that prompted one the most important speeches in the history of our nation. When I say these four words, most of you will know right away who said them and why. That’s the power of this speech. “I have a dream.”
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his powerful vision on August 28, 1963 at the March on Washington. He had prepared some written remarks for the day, and he was in the middle of them, when a voice from behind him said, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” It was Mahalia Jackson, a famous gospel singer who was performing that day. He had told her about a dream he’d had and as he addressed the crowd of 250,000 people, she knew he had to tell them, “tell them about the dream, Martin.”
“I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little 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!”
Today we are starting a sermon series all about a dream, a dream deeply rooted, not in the American dream, but in God’s dream for creation, a dream rooted in all of Scripture. It is the dream of the Book of Revelation, the last word about God in the Bible. We are going to spend the next several weeks exploring this dream of a man named John who was exiled on the small island of Patmos. His dream is important, not only because it provides a vision of God’s kingdom on earth, but because it is a creative, imaginative vision of God’s very real, very powerful activity in the world in all times.
We are living in a time when dreams and visions are not so common, not because God isn’t trying every day in a million ways to get our attention, but because ours is a time numb to the transcendence of God, busy with the day-to-day stuff, alienated from each other, and distracted by constant onslaught from the media, social media, and politicians. But our time is also not unique, for in Martin Luther King’s day and in John of Patmos’ day there were similar struggles. In the time of the Revelation, there was tribulation, there was persecution and oppression, like today, political turmoil, hopelessness and fear. And that is the time in which dreamers must speak up, read the words of the prophecy for in reading and hearing there is blessing. It is just the right time to “tell them about the dream.” Before he shared his dream, Dr. King said, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
Why do you think it is that today, this week even, nearly 60 years later, we still turn to Dr. King’s dream, children study it and write essays? It’s recited on college campuses and city streets on his birthday. What is it about this dream?
Is it that it delights us to imagine such a hopeful vision becoming reality? His is a dream that we still need today. And so is Revelation. Revelation was designed to do the same thing for John’s community, a long time ago. At first, because it is from another culture in another time, Revelation may seem off-putting, but it is a dream designed to give hope and courage, and call to action people of faith in John’s day 2000 years ago, and it reaches back through scripture to do that.
Dr. King reaches all the way back to the prophet Isaiah’s dream saying, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together." What is it about Isaiah’s dream that Dr. King studied to give hope to Americans in his time? What is it about a dream?
Well, as King came to the end of that speech he said this vision from Isaiah, “This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with . With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, D.C.
to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will
be free one day.”
With this hope, with this expectation we are going to dream with John in the book of Revelation. Because it may help us hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
King heard the voice of Mahalia Jackson from behind him saying, “Tell them about the dream, Martin”. In Revelation, John said, “I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write in a book what you see.”
Pop-quiz: Think way back to the first Sunday of Advent, we talked about the word, apocalypse. What does apocalypse mean? I’ll give you a hint. It’s the name of the book. Apocalypse means revelation, or disclosure, an unveiling, something coming or appearing. This book is something revealed to John, something that appeared to him, a very extraordinary world unveiled around him in the midst of a very ordinary world, on an ordinary day, much like this day. In fact, it was the Lord’s day, the day we go to church and John was, “in the Spirit,” perhaps in prayer. He was in the practice of his Christian faith on any given Sunday when, just as could happen to you today, he heard behind him a loud voice like a trumpet. It was likely not Mahalia Jackson, there were no organs to play the sound, but it was a voice he could only describe as like a trumpet: loud, piercing the air and hanging there, both clear and also sultry. And the voice told him to write what he was about to see and send it as a letter to seven churches.
Now is a good time to tell you there is a great deal we simply do not know or understand in this book, like, for example, who our dreamer is. We just know this John was a faithful Christian who was living, on the island of Patmos possibly as an exile as punishment for his religious beliefs and practices. There is also a great deal of symbolism in this book. Like a dream, much does not make sense to us, does not obey the rules of space and time, but it has some meaning. We are not going to have time in this study of Revelation to explore all the symbolism, but just hold in mind, like a dream, like a vision, there is much mystery, much imagination, and much that is not real but has
very real meaning. It is like poetry, art, in fact many scholars suggest Revelation is made up of hymns used in the early church. These seven churches who get a letter, and the number seven itself stirs our curiosity. Interesting our neighbors in Philly got a letter, the city of brotherly and sisterly love.
When John turns to see about this voice interrupting his worship, he sees seven golden lampstands, perhaps candles, or a menorah and in the midst of them a kind of figure, so grand, so truly original John cannot say exactly what he sees, he is left only with what it was like, over and over: one like the Son of Man, hairs like white wool, like snow, eyes like a flame of fire, feet like bronze, a voice like the roar of many waters, face like the sun shining in full strength. What John sees brings him to his knees, he fell at his feet as though dead.
“But,” John says, “he laid his hand on me saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever.” He sounds like Jesus.
Rev. 1:12-15 by Demar Douglas
What will follow is apocalypse, revelation, dreams and visions God has for John to share with the church in his day to wake them up, bring them to their senses, make them aware that God is at
work in the world, there is more going on here than we may recognize, without some holy help.
Christ Church, it is a perfect time for us to hear the Revelation of John for in our own day God is also eager for us to wake up to God’s presence in the world. God has given all of us eyes to see, but often we just aren’t looking for where God is in this moment, and in the moments of our pasts. But through Scripture God comes to us today and like a gospel singer waiting in the wings, like a trumpet blast, God is urging us to pay attention share what you see, tell your dreams. Beloved, we all have a dream, and here is mine, that you would know the feeling of the embrace of God and that in God’s arms you find the comfort and the courage to share your deepest hopes and dreams. We need you to tell us about the dream, tell us about your faith, for “with this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
 “I Have a Dream,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 8/28/1963. www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm