WE HAVE A DREAM - A sermon by Jeff Scheich, Room211 Campus Pastor

WE HAVE A DREAM - A sermon by Jeff Scheich, Room211 Campus Pastor

Sunday, July 24, 2016

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A few months ago Pastor Schnake came and gave a message to us here in Room211 on a Sunday morning.  I think it was in early February.  He talked with us about a whole variety of possibilities that God might have us focus on here at Christ - the desire to reach more children and families in our school, the need for an enlarged Commons space in which we could connect with one another, ways in which we could bless seniors and ways in which we might be able to even bless other pastors and Lutheran congregations in the US.  He talked about the importance of establishing our Room211 South ministry, still in its infancy, and of possibilities for ministry in other places throughout our city.  It was an inspiring and very broad vision filled with many thoughts and dreams. 

Since that time a lot of conversations have taken place, and more are no doubt yet to come.  We've tested the waters to see what the immediate needs and directions are for us as a congregation as well as what we think we can actually support.  Let me give you a 30,000 foot view of where we are at this point: 

There are 6 classrooms in the Portable, now 12 years old and being used by our Child Care, which need to be replaced with permanent rooms.  This is about 5 years overdue, and will help us transition children into our K-5 elementary rooms.

Room211 needs another pastor / leader who can continue to lead us forward as we seek and save people who don't yet know Jesus - once he is on staff, we need to consider what area of ministry (Connect, Grow, Serve, Go) needs the most attention, and perhaps add a staff member to address that need among us.

Room211 Central needs more space so that we can invite friends into a relationship with Christ - we can achieve this at no cost simply by having some of our Central worshippers, on a voluntary basis, join the South Campus of our ministry

We need to prepare for more senior-centered ministry as our congregation and community ages

Just as the band is crucial to our Room211 worship, the music ministry of Blended is also crucial and has never had a dedicated rehearsal space.  This should be addressed, and will have the added benefit of blessing Christ Schools.

Our Wednesday evening Children's Ministry (Wednesday Night Live) is only a year old and already filled, attracting primarily public school students and their families.  We need to improve and expand our ministry to children. 

Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights are prime time for adult education, and expansion of our facilities would help us all grow deeper in faith

Room211 South needs to move from temporarily renting facilities to purchasing land and actually having a permanent presence in Southeast Lincoln

Christ Kids Child Care, which has been full for more than 10 years, needs to expand, and our Child Care leaders, after much consideration, believe that the best place to do that is at our South Lincoln location … the sooner, the better.

Well, this is a long list.  And when I look at it, it's exciting to think of the possibilities - what if we were able, under God's grace, to actually accomplish these things in the next few years?  To keep moving forward as a congregation, not sitting still but actually continuing to join Jesus on His mission as He seeks to save lost people in our community.  And what's more, this list is not everything that's in front of us - we still have things like Serve Lincoln Days and mission trips to Kenya and Uganda and feeding kids in Haiti and High School ministry and … the list goes on and on.  But these are the areas where I think God is calling us to make our next advance, where I see Jesus on a mission, calling us to join Him.

What we'd like to do is ask you to be in prayer about these things as this next month progresses.  Really beyond that, but especially over this next month.  During the next month as a congregation we're going to be spending extra time in prayer, and to help each of us do that we've put together a prayer journal that will be available in hard copy OR on line OR delivered to your inbox, similar to how hundreds of you received the book of Acts readings during the month of June.  And each Sunday, similar to how the book of Acts series worked in June, we'll be introducing the upcoming week's prayer topic in our messages here in Room211. 

The four topics for our four weeks of prayer are Dreams, Trust, Money and Courage.  This week, then, Dreams.  The most famous dreamer in all of Scripture is Joseph - not Joseph the husband of Mary and step-father of Jesus, but another Joseph - a Joseph of the Old Testament.  And so the Scripture readings in our prayer journal this week focus us on that Joseph. Let's get to know him and his dreams.

The Joseph of the Old Testament lived almost 4000 years ago.  If you've heard of Abraham, Abraham was Joseph's great-grandfather.  The lineage goes like this: Abraham / Sarah.  Isaac / Rebekah.  Jacob / Rachel.  And then Joseph.  In each case, each couple had trouble becoming pregnant.  Jacob had other wives and so had other kids, but Rachel it seems could not get pregnant.  Finally the day arrived - after 10 sons and a daughter by other wives, Jacob and Rachel had little Joe.  Because he was so long in coming, and because Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife, as he grew up, little Joseph became his dad's favorite son. 

(Genesis 37:4-8 NIV) When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. 5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." 8 His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

So there it is, the dream.  The next 13 chapters of the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis are the account of how this dream actually played out in the lives of Joseph and his brothers.  It's my opinion that these 13 chapters are the most fascinating chapters in the whole Bible - if you have never read the Bible, this week would be a great week to start.  Just sit down and gobble up these chapters in one or two sittings.  It's a really fast-paced story with lots of twists and turns and a surprising ending.  Well, not all that surprising, if you remember the dream. 

One thing interesting about this particular dream - on the surface it looks like it's a dream about Joseph's brothers all bowing down to him.  It looks like it's about a power struggle.  About leadership and about servanthood.  And it is … sort of.  But big picture, it's actually about God saving people.  It's about people who are in danger of death, in danger of being wiped out … and God comes to their rescue.  It's about God saving lost people.  Hold that thought - you'll find it reappears often whenever God gets involved with people.  God saves lost people. 

While you're holding that thought, a few comments in general about dreams, if I might.  Joseph's dream was a literal dream.  It wasn't an idea that he had about what he thought he might do in the future.  It wasn't even an idea he had about what he thought God might want him to do in the future.  It was, quite literally, a dream. 

I believe that God can guide us by dreams today - who am I to limit God?  Guide us by literal dreams.  However!  However I don't believe that He does that very often.  Over the course of 4000+ years of history that are covered in the Bible, I think God guides people maybe 20 times by dreams.  That's about 1 every 200 years for all of humanity.  So if you are going to claim that God came to you in a dream and said something to you, what you are essentially claiming is that basically since the founding of the United States, of all the people all over the world during that time, God decided to come to you and you alone and tell you something in a dream.  Hmmm.  A pretty statistically significant claim.  Even outlandish.  You get my drift - you better be very sure before you make such a claim, because it's a HUGE claim.  Nevertheless, it is possible.  Just not probable. 

Anyway, Joseph's dream was, in fact, exactly that - a dream.  Given by God.  Today we tend to use the word a little more loosely; we tend to use the word to refer to a wish or a vision or a preferred future, as in, "I have a dream that one day I'll live in a beach house on the ocean."  Our prayer journal for the week follows suit.  Our prayer journal uses the word 'dream' more like, say, Martin Luther King Jr. used the word.  "I have a dream".

Think for a moment about Martin Luther King's dream.  King's dream wasn't a literal dream like Joseph had; it was a vision of a preferred future.  You could say that it was something that King himself made up, but if you said that, you'd be wrong.  Why?  Because Martin Luther King believed strongly and rightly that it was not just his preferred vision of the future, but God's preferred vision.  He read the Scriptures and let God's word seep into his soul.  What he saw in God's Word contrasted sharply with what he saw as he looked at God's world.  Because of that contrast, believing that God had the power to even bring dead people back to life, he sensed not only his vision for the future but God's vision.  Listen to how God's word and the truths of Scripture permeate his dream - here are some quotes from King's famous speech:

  • 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.
  • I have a dream today!
  • 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 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!

King's dream was powerful.  It was powerful in part because of the very force of his personailty.  I certainly can never hope to preach it like he could.  But it was also powerful because his dream aligned so closely with God's dream.  With God's word. 

Joseph's dream aligned perfectly with God's word.  That's obvious, for God Himself spoke to Joseph in the dream.  King's dream aligned, I think, with God's word, because it was drawn from years of study of God's word.  What about our dream?  What's God's dream for us?  What does His word say to us?  When His word permeates our soul, where does it lead us to dream, to vision, to pray, to plan, to go?

It doesn't take a ton of reading in the Bible before you get a good sense of God's overriding dream for His creation, His vision for humanity, His will.  Paul when he's writing to Timothy and telling him to pray for those in authority over us, writes these words:

(1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV) This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Jesus, talking about His own mission on earth, His own dream for how He wants to see things changed here on earth, referring to Himself as the Son of Man, says:

(Luke 19:10 NIV) For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

The very last thing that Jesus says to His disciples before He leaves earth is:

(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

And guess what - as Jesus talks about making disciples, about seeking and saving lost people, He says that a) we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God and b) that little children often are the leaders, bringing older people into God's kingdom.  In Luke 18 we read this little story: 

(Luke 18:15-17 NIV) People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

I have a dream, people.  In my dream I see an army of thousands of Christ Lutheran people fanning out over this fair city and even around the world.  I see Jesus on a mission through Christ Lutheran people, seeking and saving the lost.  Can you see it too?  Do you share the dream of Room211 people trusting in the power of the cross, in the power of the resurrected Lord Jesus, going out into the world and impacting our community in His name?  Do you see people lost in the darkness and deception of this world coming to the knowledge of the truth?  Do you also see disciples being made through baptism and through the teaching of God's word.  Like me, do you see hundreds of families hearing the good news of Jesus as their little kiddoes are cared for in Christ Kids Child Care.  I have a dream.  We have a dream.  And I assure you of this - that dream lines up perfectly with God's dream, with God vision, with God's will.  What did we say about Joseph's dream?  What was the meaning of it?  God saves lost people!  That's what He does.

Do you know this:  since Room211 South was opened, 2 years ago in September, our average worship attendance has gone from 1053 to 1106.  That's an increase of 53 people per Sunday.  In the past 18 months we have had 103 baptisms at Room211.  64 of those were infants; 21 were children; 18 were adults.  18 adults baptized in the past 18 months!  Is that crazy, or what!  And that's not even counting all of the baptisms in Blended. In Blended, they have had 90 baptisms.  58 of those were infants; 25 were children; 7 were adults.  All told between both services we have experienced 194 baptisms - holy cow!  Every one of them brought here by Jesus … through you.  Do you see the dream???

Let me pause for a moment in all this dream talk and ask this - I am sure that there are those among us this morning who don't yet know Jesus.  Who are perhaps seeking Him, who are knocking on the door of faith, but who have not yet found Him.  Here in this moment Jesus is reaching out to you.  He's extending His nail-scared hand to you.  He has paid the price for your sins by dying on the cross for you; He has risen from the dead to give you the assurance of eternal life beyond the grave with Him.  Is God prompting you to take Jesus' hand in faith?  To trust Him?  To join Him in moving from death to life?  If so, don't fear.  Take that step of faith.  Join together with countless Christ-followers throughout the ages.  And let's talk more about this after the service - track me down and share your faith journey with me, would you?

Friends, I think I've said enough for now to get you started.  Last thought about this dream of God's that all people come to know Him - if I've heard it once I've heard it a thousand times - why do these wonderful inspiring dreams of people coming to know Jesus always seem to turn into mundane projects of building this and building that?  Why can't we forget the buildings and focus on people?  How do we answer that???  Well, take a look around you.  It's in this building, for which you and others have sacrificed, that lost people have met Jesus.  It's in this building that the feeding of starving souls that takes place every day here in this building.  This building and any physical additions that we do are finally not about bricks and mortar, but about people.  Lost people for whom Christ died.    We have a dream!