Transcribed from the audio.

Gracious God, from whom every good gift comes, send your spirit into our lives. By the flame of your wisdom, open the horizons of our minds. Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words and to go beyond speech, praising you in the silence deep within our hearts. Amen.

“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” Those two verses that you heard from the reading from the prophet Joel are two of the best known in the Bible. And they’re two of the most potent with possibility. They’re so significant that Peter, on the day of Pentecost, quotes those very verses as the fulfillment of that prophecy when God sent the Holy Spirit and it descended on the disciples, and all who were gathered, to empower them to proclaim the Good News of the resurrected Christ throughout Judea and Samaria to the ends of the world. They claimed that prophecy and they lived it. It makes me wonder, if those verses are so powerful and so potent with possibility, why we don’t spend more time reflecting on them and claiming them for ourselves?

Open wide the throttle of your imaginations. What big dream might you dream to do something to bring about the Kingdom of God, on behalf of God? What would it mean for you and for me and for this community of faith if we embraced the truth that God did, in fact, pour out God’s spirit on all flesh? And it was done for a purpose. I think so often we look around the world that we inhabit and we get overwhelmed by the enormity of some of the issues. Whether it’s poverty or homelessness, we can just get stuck in a sense of scarcity to meet those needs. What would it be like if we really opened wide and dreamed writ large that we could, in fact, be empowered by that spirit to change things?

When I think of contemporary ministers who are not the least bit bashful about dreaming big dreams, one of the ministers who comes to mind, to me, is Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church. He and his wife, Kay, have been guest speakers at the Cathedral, and you may know the story of how he started that church. He had just freshly graduated from seminary. He discovered that Orange County was one of the fastest growing counties in the country. So he and his wife and small child got in their car with very few resources, drove to Orange County, and set about the business of planting a church. So for three months he went door-to-door, knocking on his neighbor’s doors and asking them why they didn’t go to church. And he heard: it’s boring; not relevant to my daily life; focuses too much on money. And he listened well and he listened carefully. Three months later, at his very first public service, there were 205 people gathered that day. And he told them that not very far in the future there would be 20,000 members of that church. Can you imagine what the 205 people must have thought? They must have thought he was crazy. To my shame, I would have thought the guy was crazy. But, of course, we know that that’s precisely what happened, even more so.

The same dreaming dreams have fueled his ministry and the reach that he has had to countless people all across the world. He challenged the members of his congregation—I think one Lenten season—that for forty days that they would feed every hungry person in their county. So for forty days, three meals a day, some 9,200 volunteers made that happen. Theologian Leonard Sweet says that one of the best traditions of the evangelical tradition is that they don’t plan forward, they prophesy forward and that Rick Warren prophesies forward. I think we have a lot that we can learn from the evangelical church in terms of dreaming big dreams on behalf of God.

I recently was inspired by another contemporary Christian leader, Archbishop Thabo from the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. You may know that the Province of Southern Africa is one with which our diocese has a companion relationship and Archbishop Thabo is one of the successors to another big thinker, Desmond Tutu. We were gathered in England for the annual meeting of the Compass Rose Society, which is an international Anglican group that helps to support the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council around the world. Archbishop Thabo was our guest speaker, our keynote, and he shared with us a vision that he has.

You may know that the province is huge and diverse. The countries in that province include: South Africa, Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, St. Helena’s Island. I may have missed one, but you get the point. It’s big. And he has a dream that as that community of Anglicans and Christians is growing, to help better equip them to be messengers of the Good News of the resurrected Christ. As you might imagine, for those who are in seminary training, physical theological libraries or physical libraries of any sort are rare, remote, and under resourced. And so the traditional way of thinking about how you would equip and enable people to deepen their theological study and education, in terms of bricks and mortars and books, just isn’t very viable. Rather than give up, he got creative and decided to leverage another resource available to him, that of technology. His project is to get e-readers, Kindles, that will be loaded with key theological texts, books on leadership development, books on public advocacy and social justice, books on the environment and ecology, books on women, gender, and human sexuality issues—portable libraries to be distributed to clergy and laity and seminarians alike. Can you imagine how that will transform education and study and community in that province? It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that that could transform study and sharing the Good News globally.

Archbishop Thabo was open to dreaming big dreams and pursuing a vision. What might we tackle together if we opened wide the throttle of our imaginations to do something big on behalf of God? This Cathedral community is involved in so many different ministries designed to help those in need, designed to help spread the Good News. But what if we dared to dream and prophesy forward something great big? I don’t know what that might be but there are plenty of options. We know, for example, that one in four children in this city go to bed hungry every night—twenty-five percent of the children in the city. What if we dreamed together that we would change that, that no child in the city would ever go hungry at night again?

God poured out God’s Spirit on all flesh to empower us to bring about the Kingdom of God in our time. So this morning I invite you to join me. Open wide the throttle of your imagination. Dare to dream and dream big. And let us together prophesy forward to make a real difference in this world. Amen.


The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope