The God who Dreams
Reflections from a Sermon delivered by Naomi Tutu,
2017 Alliance of Baptist Convocation
Genesis 1-3, Isaiah 58:9b-3, 65:17-25
May 28, 2017
In the beginning, God has a dream and She creates a world out of that dream. Human beings come along, but decide they want to be as gods themselves. They start messing up that dream, spending a lot of time creating god in their own image. Instead of dreaming God’s dreams, their dreams become nightmares for others.
You would think that God’s next move would be to get rid of these problematic human beings, to give up on the whole lot. Such dream-wreckers, they are! But instead, God just keeps dreaming a new world into being.
God is relentlessly persevering through history and time. A long time later, the prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s dream. He describes a beautiful dream for the healing and redemption of all creation.
What is most astonishing is that God keeps inviting human beings to participate in–even advance–the Dream! “Come with me! Dream with me! I need you as part of my Redemption Team!” God calls out. She gives us the opportunity to participate with Her in building a world where the lion lays down with the lamb, where everyone can enjoy the fruit of their own labor, where there is no crying and no sorrow.
Again and again, however, humans reject God’s dream, choosing instead to enrich the few at the expense of the many. They oppress others to secure their own power and preeminence, to act “as gods.” In the name of religion or of the security state, they baptize killing, maiming. They shun the cries of the most vulnerable. They rape the planet with impunity. As citizens of the nations of the earth , we all participate in this nightmare.
Yet God keeps dreaming God’s dream and calling Her people to join the Redemption Team. The Holy One provides this Team a community of fellowship called the body of Christ to lift one another up when darkness descends, times are difficult, and trust is hard to come by. She gives this Team spiritual kin to love each other into Courage, Perseverance, and Hope.
If we respond to hate with hate, hate wins. Naomi Tutu reminded us in her bible study that her father, Desmond Tutu, was at one time one of the most hated people in South Africa. He was Archbishop of the Anglican Church during and after the apartheid era. There were so many death threats on his life. Whenever the family had to go to the store, the kids always told their dad that he didn’t need to come. They didn’t want to be out in public with him more than necessary. Being together in public could be so unpredictable and dangerous.
Desmond and Leah Tutu tried their best to shield their children from this reality. Naomi spoke of the first time she answered the phone when the person on the other end of the line made a death threat against her family. Those were the days of landline phones, and not everyone had a phone, so it was a big deal. There were five kids, and whenever the phone would ring, they all jostled to be the first to get to it and answer it.
Naomi was sixteen that day when she answered the phone. Her parents saw her reaction as she put the phone down. They asked her who had called. At first, she did not want to say, but on more inquiry, the truth came out. “I was so angry,” she said, “that if that person had been there, I wanted to punch his lights out.”
Desmond and Leah sat the kids down together in the living room. They patiently explained, “We cannot respond to hatred with hatred. If we do that, the haters have already won. As hard as it is, we must respond with love. Loving in the face of hatred is how we retain our humanity in the midst of inhumanity.”
Such a response is not passive at all. It still requires huge risks in confronting injustice. It still requires sticking one’s neck out to make peace in the hardest of situations. Naomi saw her parents practice this way of living again and again. After apartheid came down, Desmond Tutu was tasked to chair the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which became a model for other nations seeking to heal from brutal, genocidal histories.
Rev. Naomi Tutu’s heart pulsated with the urgency of speaking out against racism, poverty, homophobia, and Islamophobia, against all human acts and intents that threaten God’s dream and instead create nightmares for others. She reminded us that we cannot do this on our own. Her family could not do this on their own. We need both God’s courage and one another. We need every single part of God’s indivisible, holy body, working together for the benefit of the entire Community of Creation.
You and I, this church, all of us humans are invited to Dream God’s Dream–to be creators of beauty, justice, peace, friendship, and love. As we join the Redemption Team, we must guard our own hearts, confronting within us all that which hinders God’s Dream from coming to fruition. We ourselves are not innocent of prejudice and the capacity to inflict harm. We must question and dare, agitate and speak out. We must live out God’s Dream in our daily lives with faithfulness and integrity.
God’s Dream is nothing short of a World Reclaimed. May this dream be ours as well. Amen.