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Dream Big!
February 21 and 22 1998

LUKE 6.17-26

I'm beginning a series of sermons today that will last through Lent and Easter: HOW TO SUCCEED, NOT JUST SURVIVE. How to succeed, the first principle: DREAM BIG!

Tom Monaghan is a dreamer who dreams big dreams. He was an orphan from a poor family in Michigan. When he was a teenager, he dreamed of one day owning the Detroit Tigers-- not playing, but owning. In 1960 he dropped out of college and opened a tiny pizza parlor, but he dreamed big. Today he runs the world's largest pizza delivery company with annual sales of more than $2 billion. He owns a franchise of 4,100 stores and employs 130,000 people. Name? Domino's Pizza! He dreams big! Oh, his first dream? He purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1983! Tom Monaghan told the Los Angeles Times, "Dreaming is the greatest preparation for wealth."

Leonard Sweet wrote, "Institutions, friendships, marriages, corporations fall apart not at their seams but at their dreams." I would add churches. Churches fall apart at their dreams. Churches die as their dreams die. A dead church is a church with no dreams. Our church dreams big dreams. We dreamed of adding another service, a contemporary service with a praise band and singers. That dream is a reality with our Saturday night HOPE HAPPENS HERE. Now the dream takes work to make it come true. Years ago our church dreamed of a children's program after school. CATCH was born, and continues to grow. Tuesday we had the largest number of children we have had all year. Now we dream of expanding our after-school ministry to every weekday. Our dreams are big. However, look at the report in today's Preview. Income was $10,000 less than needed in January! Let's dream big with our checkbooks as well!

What about you? Do you dream big? Why dream puny, pint-sized dreams? Dream God-sized dreams. Are your dreams big enough for God? Jesus dreamed big dreams. The Scripture lesson read today gave us a few examples of Jesus' big dreams. Bible scholars, do you notice any differences between Luke's account of Jesus' teachings, and Matthew's? Matthew has Jesus teaching on a mountain. We call it the Sermon on the Mount. Luke has Jesus coming down, and standing on a level place, standing smack dab in the midst of needy people. Luke emphasizes that the crowd included folks who came to be healed physically and emotionally, and to hear a word from the Lord.

Another difference between the two accounts is that Matthew spiritualizes the Beatitudes. According to Luke, Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are poor." In Matthew? "Blessed are the poor in spirit." In Luke, Jesus said, "Blessed are you are hungry." In Matthew? "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." Matthew who puts Jesus on a mountain, lofty and ethereal, spiritualizes the blessings. Luke, who positions Jesus squarely in the center of the sick, possessed, smelly, milling crowd, presents a list of fundamental needs. Jesus walked among the impoverished, the hungry, those who never had their stomachs full, those who cried tears on a daily basis because of their lot in life. And, Jesus dreamed big!

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Big dreams! Jesus did not say that there any blessings in being poor, but that God's promise makes the poor blessed. Imagine! No poverty, no one hungry, no tears but laughter. Such is what Jesus dreams. Big dreams.

What about you? Big dreams? Or, puny dreams? What you dream says a great deal about you, because dreams set the context, set the limits, set the parameters, set the expectations. We are limited only by our dreams. From e-mail, the latest list of bloopers that were actually printed in church bulletins:

The Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door. (Big expectations??)

Due to the Rector's illness, Wednesday's healing services will be discontinued until further notice. (Talk about faith!)

Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to church secretary.

Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

What are the expectations, the parameters your dreams set? For example, how long do you expect to live? Perhaps you young ones have never asked the question, but the time will come! Gene Millen, from the Vital Life Center, spoke last Wednesday about Taking Care of Yourself. He asked the question, how long do you expect to live? Dr. Walter Bortz of Stanford concluded after years of research that we can expect to live between 100 and 120 years! Do you dream big? We would really bankrupt the Social Security System if we all lived that long. Can you list what prevents us from reaching a ripe old age? Here a few.

What you were born with (But, you can only blame your ancestors for 15% of your physical problems.)

Stress (Stress is a huge factor in both heart attacks and cancer. One doctor found that 80% of his cancer patients had experienced a major trauma.)

Lack of exercise (Honey, pass me the remote control. I want to watch the program on fitness.)

What we put in our mouths, and what we don't put in!


Dream big! What do you hope to accomplish with your long life? Last weekend we were in Bakersfield for a Family Camp wedding. On Sunday, we worshiped with the First United Methodist Church. The service celebrated the life of Albert Schweitzer, a great Christian hero. Schweitzer, born in 1875, was a big dreamer. He was a man ahead of his time for he had three careers. The average young person today can look forward to three careers. Schweitzer had three, and he excelled in all three. He was first a musician, a great organist (his concerts were guaranteed sell-outs), and an authority on Johann Sebastian Bach. Secondly, he was a theologian. His book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, was both controversial and influential. It is still considered a classic. Schweitzer also anticipated the environmental and ecological movements with his belief in the Reverence for Life. The love of God leads to a reverence for life, all of life, nature as well as people.

But, these two careers were not enough for Albert Schweitzer. He dreamed of doing something significant for humanity. It struck him as incomprehensible that he could be allowed to lead such a happy life, while he saw so much suffering in the world. In the autumn of 1904, he opened a magazine from the Paris Missionary Society. His eye caught the article, "The Needs of the Congo Mission." The article concluded with the sentence, "Men and women who can reply simply to the master's call, `Lord, I am coming'; those are the people whom the church needs." Schweitzer heard the call and began preparing to go to Africa by first going to Medical School to become a doctor. Listen to Schweitzer's own account.

I finally was graduated from medical school and my wife and I set out for Africa. Upon our arrival the missionaries at Lambarene gave us a hearty welcome. However they had not been able to erect the corrugated iron buildings in which I was to begin my medical activity. At first I had to use an old chicken coop as my consulting room... From the very first days, before I had even found time to unpack the drugs and instruments, I was besieged by sick people. People came from one or two hundred miles away, arriving by canoe from both upstream and downstream on the Ogowe and its tributaries. The chief diseases I had to deal with were malaria, leprosy, sleeping sickness, dysentery, skin ulcers, but I was surprised at the number of cases of pneumonia and heart disease which I discovered.

During his "spare time!" he completed work on the three last volumes of the American edition of Bach's organ music. Schweitzer labored in Africa through two World Wars. He wrote,

Now war was raging as a result of the downfall of civilization. The ideals of true civilization had become powerless, because the idealistic attitude of reverence toward life in which we are rooted had gradually been lost to us. All events that occur within nations and within mankind can be traced to spiritual causes contained in the prevailing attitude toward life.

In 1952, Albert Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He was a man who lived out his Christian faith in humble service to the most needy of the world. And he urged others to do likewise. Schweitzer challenged, "Everyone must find his own Lambarene."

We can't all be Schweitzers, but we can all do a ministry, what God calls you to do. Dream big! How to succeed, not just survive: DREAM BIG! Continued next week.

© 1998 Douglas I. Norris