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Dreams of Flying - Sermon for 8/10/14 (Pentecost +9 A)

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Sermon delivered to Lutheran Church of the Cross - Berkeley
August 10, 2014 - Ninth Sunday in Pentecost

"Dreams of Flying" - Text from Matthew 14:22-33

Greetings to you, my family in Christ, sisters and brothers, saints and sinners.

Cary Bass-Deschenes on Mount San Jacinto, in Palm Springs. Okay, so I'm not flying. But I'm way up high!

Do you remember your dreams? I don't always remember all of them, but there is one recurring theme I have in one of them, and it is probably one of those that a dream analyst would have a fun time with. In it I am somehow flying. I don't always know how it starts. Sometimes I just go up through the roof. Sometimes it's out a window. Sometimes I'll just find myself flying. And I'll be very high up in the air, and I will see all sorts of landscapes below me. Maybe city blocks, maybe farmlands, maybe roads. Sometimes ocean, sometimes mountains. In any case I am high in the air, and there's a feeling of complete weightlessness as I'm moving forward at a really fast speed.

And then what happens sometimes is that I realize at some point that I should not be able to fly at all, that it is entirely impossible, and I suddenly begin to drop out of the air. If I am lucky, I will realize I am dreaming right away, and wake up without any terrible fear. If not, I wind up waking up with a start, my heart racing, and grateful that I have not just wound up as a splat on the ground on whatever landscape I had just been flying over.

I don't know if other people have dreams like this, where you are flying or maybe doing some other impossible thing and and you remember that it is not some thing that you should be able to do and you are suddenly no longer able to do it. I have found in the past when I have had dreams like that it usually relates to the fact that I am doing some thing in my life that I had not ever expected possible and there I am, doing it.

Now, I am so pleased to be here at Church of the Cross preaching before you today. I have actually only been up here in the sanctuary for services on two different occasions, but I have been here at this church on so many occasions I could not possibly give you a figure. I have nine and a half years clean from chemical dependency through a 12-step program, but for me, the distance from the last time I used is no perfect guarantee that I can pick up drugs or alcohol again successfully, and so I have to make meeting attendance a regular part of my life, and I have attended a number of different groups that meet here throughout the week.

And in that process, I have gotten to know quite a few people who have grace the meeting rooms of the program I attend. And if there is something consistent to say about people who come into this fellowship, it is that many, if not most of them go back out there and use drugs again. Some of them do not even make it back before getting locked up or losing everything. And over the years I have known a few people who have died while using or as a direct result of the drugs they used.

Addiction, like so many things in life, is a hard road to travel. It can shape how you perceive things around you, even if you have some time clean in a program like the one I attend. You get used to people dying. And for a long time I was unwilling to put more than a few people in my life who were, what we call, newcomers, because I did not want to make an emotional investment with someone for whom the chances of staying clean were less than half. Even though I would engage in what we call sponsorship, the process of sharing my own experience strength and hope with the twelve steps, as none of the people who asked me to sponsor them seemed to either take the program seriously or me seriously or both, I had little enough faith that anyone I invested time in would actually stick around.

But something has happened in my life lately. The more I identify myself with having a Christ-centered life, the more I pray for my will to be more aligned with God's will, the more I accept the mission and ministry he has called me to do, the more he puts people in my life who challenge the very faith I have been given.

We like to call them, "Newcomers," but some of them, in fact, have been around for a while, and for that time for whatever reason, that old evil that we call addiction keeps dragging them back for more. And they keep our program going, because if it wasn't for newcomers, the rest of us would keep getting adding on time and forget about what it was like to come in.

And I have started to open my heart up to some people who are struggling, despite the fact that means when they make a decision to use, when they pick up something that is going to send them into the same freefall that they were in before, which, if continued will bring them to dereliction, depravity, detainment, and death, that my heart twists along with it.

And yet, something inside of me knows that that miracles can and do happen for them as well, that for each and every one of them that stick around, there is a chance of a last time for them to change their lives, that God works in amazing and wondrous ways, and that there is hope for the future.

It is something that tells me to go on caring, despite the fact that some days I feel when I see others suffer, that I am sinking along with them.

Like Peter in today's gospel text from the book of Matthew and his action after seeing this man, this Jesus, walking on water.

Now, the miracle of Jesus walking on water is so well known, it has given rise to several cliché terms. If you say that someone walks on water, you are saying that they can do no wrong, or at least in your eyes. And it is no wonder we have gotten to know it so well, because this miracle appears in not one, but three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and John.

If you are not familiar with the account, it follows the miracle of the feeding of five thousand, which, if you were in church last week, you may have heard, where by virtue of Jesus command, five loaves and two fish are shared among five thousand men plus women and children. And now the disciples are instructed to go on ahead across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus seems to finally have some time to himself after having been chased by the mobs of people and sets himself to prayer.

Heavy winds batter the boat and the disciples could not make it where they wanted. And then, there is Jesus, walking across the water to the boat. The disciples, as anyone would be when confronted with the supernatural, believe him a ghost and are immediately afraid. Jesus tells them not to fear.

But this account is peculiar and contains material not found in Mark or John. It is only in Matthew that we see Peter, still not completely convinced, telling Jesus to command him to come to him and walk along side of him.

When Jesus says come, he followed Jesus' command and joined him on the water. But something happens. Peter realizes just what is going on, and says to himself, WAIT A MINUTE. I can't be walking on water? And he suddenly starts sinking into the sea, crying out, "Lord save me!"

But this isn't really so much a put-down of Peter at all. Indeed, if anyone should have faith, it would be Peter. But this is such an incredible miracle, and really, how long has he known Jesus? Despite the fact that we've seen miracles of healing and the multiplication of the loaves, this whole walking on water, this defiance of the very laws of physics and gravity, goes above and beyond anything he's seen before. And so it becomes hard to realize the evidence before him is actually happening, and doubt creeps in. He must then be saved.

And I think as any human being, when confronted with a miracle in front of us, find it easy to doubt and question what has become of us. I can always point to the first time I went to a meeting. There was no one obvious reason for me to stop using drugs. I was employed, I had a small apartment of my own. I had a strong case of denial going on as well, that whatever my problems were, they were related to the people around me and other things, not my drug use. The sudden realization that it was my drugs could only be classified as a miracle.

And despite the fact that I did not make it the first time through, I came back without hitting rock bottom. What happened for me when I started working these steps is that my life began to change. I began to become willing to do things I never thought possible. I wrote stories that were actually published by other people. I got hired at a job for one of the top websites on the internet that had me attend conferences on several different continents, and because of a developing spirituality, I found myself renewing a call from my childhood to become a pastor in the Lutheran church. And each time I did something different, I struggled to recognize myself for who I was, and I continued to have those kinds of dreams where I was flying. And some of those times, when I was flying, I knew what was happening and I continued to fly.

Even though Peter foolishly asks Jesus to make this miracle for him, to bring him out on the water, Jesus does it anyway. And at the core of it, God helped Peter remove his own doubt. And he helps us remove the doubt that we ourselves, despite our own poor self-image, despite the fact that we think so little of ourselves so often, he gives us the courage and strength to see through those poor perceptions and give us the grace to be the miracle, the loving Godly child he means for us to be.

While many times we fail at some of the things we look to accomplish, we find the evidence of a loving God in our lives that makes that miracle happen. This God, who, having loved us so much to send his son to die for us, so that we may be with him in his glorious kingdom, this loving God, still sees to make miracles happen for us at critical times in our lives.

This, my sisters and brothers is the good news of our God who comes to us, the God who invites us into his kingdom of heaven and makes miracles happen in our lives in the kingdom he rules here on earth.


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This page contains a single entry by Cary Bass-Deschenes published on August 10, 2014 4:23 PM.

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