Resurrection People - living the dream

Published: Friday, 29 April 2016

This sermon was given by Keren McClelland at ABC on 24 April 2016. It is part of the ‘Resurrection People’ series which is also accompanied by Study Notes for group discussion and personal study. Here is the link to Study 5 which is based on this Scripture passage.

Resurrection People living the dream

Storyteller Roald Dahl was a wartime fighter pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force. He seems to have become a storyteller only after his near-death experience. Running out of fuel in the Western Desert and in the near dark he was forced to land…

He barely survived the crash that left him struggling with chronic pain for the rest of his life… [1] His biography describes him as “A single-minded adventurer and an eternal child who gave us the iconic Willy Wonka and Matilda Wormwood”…

Dahl’s BigFriendlyGiant is to be released as a movie this year.

We were reading it at studiokids in term 1.

Roald was telling the story of the dream-catching giant to his own children and, later, his grandchildren. The 6’6” man would climb a ladder outside their bedrooms and pretend to blow good dreams in through the window - just like the BFG.[2]

Here are a few of the studiokids dream jars based on the BFG:

Our two readings are about dreams or visions of a new reality.

Revelation 21 imagines the healing of the world.

It’s a vision of what the believers hope for, or work towards.

Imagine John, who wrote this, isolated on the island of Patmos gazing into the stars…

Patmos is off the coast of Turkey (where the 7 churches of Revelation are located).

John’s isolation has taught him to think about what is real and true and he sees a new heaven and earth where “The sea is no more”

It’s not that there is a future without oceans to fish in or waves to surf but that the monsters of the deep have been dealt with.

Surrounded by sea water the image of fresh water for thirsty people makes sense.

The “alpha and omega” is a reference to time

infinite or from the beginning.

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.

Omega is the last.

This picture of a new heaven and earth is often framed as future afterlife but this past, present and future.

In this new reality the home of God is among us mortals

“It is done” John sees.

The thread, or stream of living water,

continues not just though

history but through the fabric of the universe.

The picture of the bride and the wedding is a beautiful image of creation’s intimacy with God.

The vision of John’s is both for the future and for now.

Our second reading from Acts 11 describes a setting in the church where this vision of a new heaven and earth is tested.

Things are evolving so fast

that the disciples can't get their heads around it.

It’s more than they can manage.

The community is growing

and new and very different people are attracted to this

resurrection community they have discovered.

The urgent question then (as it continues to be for us)

How do we deal with people who are different to us who want to join in?

How do we include them?

What are the rules for belonging?

Do we make them like us?

I remember when Geordie started primary school a dad worrying/that his five-year-old was not assimilating.

The little boy was struggling to fit into the group.

He didn’t know how to talk to the other children.

He would sit off to the side avoiding contact.

The dad was painfully aware of the child’s difference.

But assimilating means to become same.

This is not the biblical image of inclusion.

Assimilation is the imposition of another’s ideas.

Another name you can give it is colonisation. 

And the legacy plays out over generations.

Those with strength and privilege dictate the rules of inclusion.

Assimilating means to absorb in and to mix them all together to make one colour.

If you are painting and you mix all the colours together you usually end up with a murky grey brown like the rinsing water.

Each of us brings different stories and strengths to community.

We all bring a mix of different colours to the palate.

On occasions when things really work in community it’s not always the full spectrum of the rainbow but often a few colours in many different shades.

Peter with his newfound position and privilege could have pushed his own dream and rules but he did not.

Peter paid attention and with the question about inclusion…

Love becomes a central a guiding principle in the discernment of new dreams that helped them to decide whether old ways of doing things were worth keeping.[3]

They together discerned the working of the Holy Spirit.

Dreams and visions

ambition and aspirations

belonging to the community,

much bigger than one individual’s dreams,

are in both our readings.

What does that look like in practice?

There’s a resource I find really helpful called

strengths in circles - building groups that flourish and fly

The authors suggest that particular characteristics of communities that are successful are

agency, safety, positivity, inclusion, respect and equality.

They can be spelt out with the acronym ASPIRE.

Under the “I” in ASPIRE some principles of inclusion are:

we welcome everyone

we have goodwill towards each other

we challenge stereotypes

we will work with everyone

we invite contributions

we believe everyone has something to offer

Which one of those principles are we strong in?

Which one of those principles could we work on?

Everyone of those principles is present in Acts 11.

The boundary between Jewish and Gentile believer becomes less defined.

Two weeks ago my family went to see the musical Matilda.

It was our long awaited Christmas present.

It is based on Roald Dahl’s story Matilda.

Matilda was dedicated to his daughter Olivia who had died at 7.

He takes a swing at parenting that either neglects or overindulges children.

Australian Tim Minchin has written the lyrics for this international show. Like Roald Dahl his work is both playful and cutting.

They are worth listening ahead of time if you are going to go.

There's lots of dreaming as in our readings.

Matilda's home life is wretched.

The five year old finds refuge in the local library reading Dostoyevsky and spends time telling the star-struck librarian embellished stories that help her deal with her parents,

her teacher’s broken heart and the bullies,

notably the villain school principal Miss Trunchbull.

Agatha Trunchbull is a larger than life character.

She is a towering bully played by a very tall male actor.

She was an Olympic athlete and her office shelves are lined with the trophies and medals from hammer throwing.

Listen to the song “the hammer” about staying in the circle!

You have to toe the line and be just like me, she says.

And Bruce is another song about dealing with the bully.

Trunchbull has followed her own Olympic dream but now is bitterly stuck with children she describes as a bunch of maggots.

She will casually pick up a child by their hair and toss them out the window.

She is dressed with a trench coat and barks orders about discipline.

A memorable piece is the smell of rebellion (lyrics here).

Performing exaggerated gymnastic movements she ignores their pleas: “I can’t take it any more”

Once we’ve exorcised/exercised these demons,

They shall be too pooped for dreaming!

Some double-time discipline

Should stop the rot from setting in!

Discipline

Discipline

For children who aren’t listening,

For midgets who are fidgeting

And whispering in history,

Their chattering and chittering,

Their nattering and twittering,

Is tempered with a smattering of

Discipline.

The choreography is playful with leaping and summersaulting onto a gym mat.

Without giving spoilers there’s a very comedic moment where the rigid thinking Trunchbull gets carried away leaps into her own daydream…

Imagine a world with no children.

Close your eyes and just dream.

Imagine. Come on - try it...

The peace and the quiet...

A babbling stream…

I wonder if this is Tim Minchin’s glimpse of the direction of redemption for this villain. She really needs another job!

The story of Matilda demonstrates the danger of squashing and dismissing dreams both in ourselves and in others.

The story so clearly illustrates how we need people who create a safe place for children, for young people, for the marginalised and traumatised, to dream their dreams and be included without demands that they become just like ourselves.

Peter’s reasoning for including those who are different, without conditions of converting to Jewish practices, leads to a stunning turn around (in him and the new church). His whole life has been committed to careful religious practices:

I have never had something unclean pass through my lips but

If God gave them the same gift that he gave us

then who am I to hinder the work of God.

The spirit brings things to life!

Peter’s vision of what and who

should be in or out challenged the foundations of his faith.

It could have unseated him but instead he found a deeper truth.

When we share a vision of God,

Alpha and Omega, whose home is with us,

expressed in creative and thoughtful ways,

then we have a future to lean towards together.

Our picture sparkles with life.


[1] https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/03/03/roald-dahl-storyteller-illness/

[2] http://www.roalddahl.com/blog/2014/april/five-things-you-never-knew-about-the-bfg

[3] Love as a guiding principle “gives us freedom to set aside even biblical laws where new cultural contexts make them inappropriate was the insight which Paul brought”. William Loader Easter 5: 24 April Acts 11:1-18 http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/CActsEaster5.htm