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AUDIO and TEXT of Sermon Preached 2/24/13- "Dreams to Fulfill"

click here for AUDIO

 

Sermon Preached by the Rev. Fulton Porter, III at St Thomas Church, Chicago

February 24, 2013

The Second Sunday in Lent

Heritage Sunday

Luke 13:31-35; Romans 8:31-39

 

Not Now. I Have Dreams to Fulfill

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

I absolutely love this passage of scripture because Jesus has the audacity to defy the king who had the will and the power to kill him.  But Jesus had the unmitigated gall to declare in the face of those who would dare to determine his destiny that God had something else in mind.  Jesus realized that he had a charge to keep, a dream to fulfill; the dream that God dreamed for his life. He still had work to do. I love Jesus here because not even the king could keep him from fulfilling his dream.  He had the courage to speak to his adversity and say “not now.”  Not now.  I don’t have time for your plans for me because God has some greater ideas about my future.  Not now. I don’t have time for your negative energy interfering with my positive trajectory. My ancestors have suffered too much and my mother has prayed too hard for me to be derailed by you.  Not now. I refuse to let you discourage me from my ambition. Not now. You may try to take me out with your drugs and gangs and gun violence; you may try to cut my life short; but as long as there are folks in the community who haven’t given up the fight, I know there’s a brighter tomorrow waiting.  Not now.  You may have predetermined my path via the school to prison pipeline, but I declare that as long as folks have not given up on me then my pursuit of the American Dream is still possible.  Not now.  I have work to do and dreams to make reality.

 

And so what about your dreams?  We have all heard the statement, "If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it." Like many of you, I affirm and resonate with this statement. It speaks to self-empowerment. A major problem with so many of us is that we have no confidence in ourselves. Whenever we're challenged to move into new areas that exceed our zones of comfort, our first response is fear and our first inclination is to say what we cannot do.  It is at the point of self-defeatism that we need to hear the statement, "If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it."

 

This statement not only speaks to this issue of self-confidence, it also challenges us to have some dreams. Some of us believe that we don't have time to dream. We are caught in such a struggle just to survive from day to day that dreaming is a luxury that we can ill afford either in terms of time or energy.  Others of us have been disappointed so often that we are afraid to dream. We feel boxed in by life and our spirits have been broken by so many discouragements that for us, dreaming is a frustrating and futile activity. Still others of us believe that we are so far down that dreaming is useless. We don't doubt our abilities, and our spirits are not broken, but we have just logically looked at our situations and concluded that we can't do any better, and so we have stopped dreaming.

 

However, the assertion, "if your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it" is a challenge to us to keep dreaming. Never allow anyone or anything, never allow any disappointment, any setback, any foe, any discouraging word, or any mistake to take away your capacity to dream.

 

To dream is to grow, not to dream is to atrophy. To dream is to live, not to dream is to die.

Dreams inspire us to reach upward, outward, onward, and inward. Dreams give us a holy discontent. Holy discontent is not anxious restlessness, self-consuming ambition, and greed that never allows us to be either thankful or at peace. Holy discontent inspires and stirs our spirits to keep reaching because God is not finished with us yet. God has something else in this life in store for us.

 

"If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it."  Every moment of every day, somebody's dream is coming true. Every moment of every day, somebody no smarter than we are, if not as smart; somebody who has the same obstacles as we have, if not more; somebody who has made as many mistakes as we have, if not more; somebody who is just as old as we are, if not older; somebody like us or who doesn't have as much going for him or her as we do has a major dream that is coming true.  If their dreams can come true, so can ours.

 

"If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it."  That's a great statement articulating a great truth, yet it is not complete. Life is filled with all kinds of obstacles and stumbling blocks, human influences and demonic forces, and unexpected circumstances such as accidents and sickness. We have no control over these factors that can block a dream. Every life has its share of dream blockers. No matter how much we conceive and believe, we're going to need more than the strength of our own hands to make some things happen. We cannot always drive ourselves by our own steam and expect to reach our goals.

We need more than ourselves to achieve some of the dreams of life.

 

Every worthwhile dream and every great dreamer faces opposition. Whether their names are Joseph or Daniel, Jesus or John, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Fannie Lou Hamer, every worthwhile dream and every great dreamer faces opposition.  If our goals are high and lofty, if we are trying to do the right thing, then we will be opposed by evil. No matter how strong we think we are, we can't fight evil by ourselves. Sometimes our thinking can seem so creative or visionary, radical or prophetic, and sometimes it's just different from the norm and goes against the grain, and we will face human opposition of overwhelming odds. We cannot fight overwhelming human opposition ourselves and win.

 

Anyone with an attitude that says, "it's me against the world," will soon be singing, "it's the world," because the world can crush us. Sometimes people will oppose us out of jealousy and sometimes they will do so out of spite. Some people really do get some sort of cheap thrill out of stepping on and trampling on other folks' dreams. Some people don't want anything worthwhile themselves and resent us for wanting something different. Some people don't have any dreams themselves and resent us for having them.  Then there are those who attack dreams either from blindness or ignorance.  Everyone doesn't see or understand our dreams and what many of us don't see or understand, we immediately attack.  No matter how much we conceive and believe, we are going to need more than ourselves to reach our dreams in the face of overwhelming opposition.

 

I am aware that the Bible is replete with examples of those who stood against the odds were victorious. Moses and Aaron opposed one of  Egypt’s most powerful dynasties and secured the release of God’s people from slavery. Joshua and Caleb were justified when they opposed the majority consensus of discouraged freed slaves who wanted to return to Egypt.  Samson once slew 1,0000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Deborah and the inexperienced Barak defeated the great general Sisera and his mighty army. A shepherd boy named David killed Goliath, a huge giant and seasoned warrior, with only a slingshot.   Elijah withstood 450 priests of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Micaiah successfully contradicted the unanimous message of 400 compromised prophets.  Daniel's prayer was more powerful than the plot of his enemies and the bite of hungry lions. Yet none of these persons stood alone.  They stood with One who is the true equalizer when the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against us, and who is an advantage giver, no matter how unbalanced the situation. They stood with One whose presence always puts us on the side of the majority. Millennia later, a group of dreamers looked at the odds stacked against them, and then at the One who was for them, and asked a crucial question, "If God is for us, who is against us?" The issue here is not opposition, but victory. We all know that powers, principalities, and people can oppose us. But if God is for us, they will not prevail.

 

I propose that we change our beginning thought from   “ if yourmind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it," to "if your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then with God, you can achieve it."  Thus, my message to you on this Heritage Sunday is a very simple one: Keep your dreams no matter how far-fetched, unreachable, or impossible they may seem. For, "if God is for us, who is against us?" We're going to encounter disappointments and setbacks along the way.   No one ever reached a goal without experiencing some setbacks. Setbacks are part of progress, even as mistakes are part of learning. Some setbacks can be so devastating and discouraging that we truly feel like giving up and our dreams seem lost forever. However, when we encounter such setbacks there is a crucial question that we need to ask ourselves, "If God is for us, who is against us?"

 

Keep your dreams no matter what opposition you encounter or who fails to actively support you.

One of the most discouraging moments in the life of a dreamer occurs when she or he discovers that some of those who were listed in the asset column are found in the liability column.  In other words, some people we had counted on being with us are either actively fighting us or failing to support us.  Sometimes people don't do anything to hurt us, but they don't do anything to help us either.  They feel that their refusal to help is not hurting us. However, dead weight is not easier to carry because it isn't kicking. Dead weight is still a burden. Those who fail to support us can be just as discouraging as those who fight against us.   However when those whom we thought were assets turn out to be liabilities, let us remember our truest and greatest asset and ask ourselves a crucial question for discouraging moments, "If God is for us, who is against us?"

 

Keep your dreams no matter how weak you may feel at any given moment. Show me a person who has never been discouraged, and I'll show you a person who has never tried to do anything or become anything worthwhile. Show me a person who has never doubted and I'll show you a person who has never really believed. Show me a person who has never been afraid and I'll show you a person who has never undertaken a challenge. Even the most positive among us feels negative sometimes; even the most cheerful among us gets depressed sometimes; even the most determined among us feels like giving up sometimes.   Everybody has an Achilles' heel in the spirit where Satan can reach and discouragement can touch. However, when we reach those points in our lives, there is a crucial question we need to ask ourselves, "If God is for us, who is against us?"

 

There is a fascinating book that I have called I Dream a World that is filled with biographical sketches of a few twentieth-century Black women of distinction. When we consider the past and present living hells to which Black women have been subjected, some may conclude that for them to dream of a career, or of true romantic love, or of a liberated gender or race would be sufficient.

However, for the maligned and powerless daughters of Africa to dream a world would seem unthinkable. Where do Black women get the tenacity to dream a world?   They have discovered the answer to a very crucial question, "If God is for us, who is against us?"

Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a nation in which his children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He dreamed a world in which nations would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and would study war no more. How could this battered and misunderstood prophet have such a dream that still speaks to the deep yearnings of our spirits and souls? King discovered the answer to a very crucial question, "If God is for us, who is against us?"

 

How do some of us know that we can kick the habits that have kicked us in the past? How do we know that we can live free from drink and drugs and other things? How do we know that there is life after our mistakes and failures? How do we know that we can rise from disgrace to dignity? Some of us have found the answer to a crucial question, "If God is for us, who is against us?"

 

"If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then with God you can achieve it."

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Beloved, all you who dare to dream, take comfort today from the inspired words of the Apostle Paul: "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:31-39).

 

Amen.

 

 

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