March 31, 2013 “ Easter Day C
Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; John 20:1-18
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
For a number of years I had a recurring dream. Dreams are always healing for us. They help us sort things out, reveal places where we might be stuck, and help us see ways in which God may be leading us to a new appreciation of what he is accomplishing in our lives. My recurring dream had two different forms.
One form of the dream involved me playing tennis. I would be playing along and suddenly my tennis racket would turn into a wire coat hanger. Though that clearly put me at a disadvantage in the match, I would always just keep on playing, figuring I would just have to bear down and work a little harder at the game in order to win the match. In that dream, as I kept on struggling to play, I would become increasingly aware of how difficult it was to grab hold of that coat hanger and how nearly impossible it was to hit the ball. But I would just keep on playing the match until I woke up, always pretty frustrated as you might imagine.
The other form of the dream involved me playing golf. Always in that form of the dream, I would come to the tee box, get out my driver, and then tee up the ball. As I addressed the ball, the tee box would change into a dining room table full of people eating and drinking. They didn’t seem all that upset but their presence was very frustrating to me in the dream because I would have to rip my drive right through the middle of the people and the crystal and china and the chandelier, all of which were impeding my efforts. But I would bear down and hit the drive and then proceed to my next shot. When I got to the fairway to hit my second shot, another frustrating shift would occur. The green ahead of me would turn into a sitting room with people gathered all around, and the hole, with the flagstick in it, would be somewhere odd in the room like on the coffee table. In the dream I would think about how hard that shot was going to be but again I would just bear down a little harder.
And then the recurring dream would take this even more frustrating shift. As I addressed the ball to hit the shot onto the green that was now a sitting room full of people, where the hole I was aiming at was on a coffee table, my golf club would turn into a tablespoon. Again, I would just bear down a little harder, bend way down and take a swing at the ball with the tablespoon, thinking that it is hard enough to hit a golf ball 175 yards onto a green anywhere but impossible to do so when the green is a sitting room, and the hole is on a coffee table and my club is now a tablespoon. But I would just keep on playing because, well I don’t really know why, but I would just keep on playing.
Until one night when I had the dream and things turned out different. I was playing golf that night in my dream rather than tennis and I came to the tee box and it turned into a dining room table and I hit my drive over the candle sticks, under the chandelier, and through all the people. And then I came to the fairway and I looked at the green and it turned into a sitting room with the flagstick on the coffee table and I took out my club and it turned into a tablespoon. And then something different happened. I looked at the tablespoon, I looked at the target, thought how impossible the situation was, and then I thought how stupid it was for me to be doing what I was doing, and I dropped the tablespoon on the fairway and walked right off the golf course.
I woke up completely refreshed and I began to think about how that recurring dream might represent some of my outlook on life in general. And I’m happy to say that I haven’t had that dream in well over ten years. Dreams are ways in which God helps us sort things out. They reveal places where we may be stuck and help us see ways in which God may be leading us to a new appreciation of what he is accomplishing in our lives.
In our lesson from Acts on this Easter Day, we hear the tail end of a story involving Peter and Cornelius the Centurion. 33 verses earlier than our passage, the story begins with Cornelius. Cornelius is a good, hard-working fellow, who is a Gentile, and he has a dream. In the dream he is told to send for a man named Peter who lives by the sea in Joppa. Cornelius trusts the dream and the next day sends a few of his workers to go get Peter. That same day Peter has a dream. In his dream, Peter sees a large sheet being lowered to the ground. In the sheet there are a bunch of animals and reptiles and birds. In the dream, Peter hears a voice say, Get up, Peter; kill and eat. But, in the dream, Peter resists and says that he is a faithful Jew and the animals are unclean and he refuses to kill them and eat them. But the voice persists: What God has made clean, you must not call profane. The dream, the books of Acts tells us, happened three times and it got Peter’s attention.
As the story continues, the men sent from Cornelius arrive in Joppa, and they ask for Peter. They tell Peter that Cornelius had a dream in which he was told to meet with Peter and Peter begins to put his own dream beside that of Cornelius and he goes with the men to see Cornelius. When he gets there he and Cornelius compare notes and realize God has brought them together. Cornelius and many others are baptized and things in the brand new Christian church are never the same. Christ, they come to see, came not just for a few people but for all the people. Everybody is clean. Everybody is in the kingdom if they want in. Grace is unlimited and life is not about us bearing down and working harder to solve our problems. Life is about us letting the forgiveness of Christ into our hearts.
The amazing thing about the resurrection is not just that Jesus was raised from the dead. With that news alone, we might well conclude that those who are perfect get rewarded. The amazing thing about the resurrection is that it keeps on happening. God continues to bring new life out of death. God continues to inspire and transform us. God continues to work in our lives to help us focus less and less on our own pain, our own suffering, our own sinfulness, our own duties and obligations, the ways in which life has mistreated us or piled on hardship. God continues to work in our lives to help us see his abiding grace which is so much more than all that hardship. God continues to work in our lives to help us see and trust his guiding grace which is so much more than anything we have done wrong or failed to do right. The resurrection is sheer refreshment.
Wake up to the good news. Lay down your burdens and walk with Jesus the Christ.