Follow your dreams, be faithful, walk anew

Acts 16:9-15
John 5:1-9

I had a dream last night. This voice said, “on your marks, get set, go!” and I woke up with a start.

I dreamt I wrote The Hobbit the other night. I think I was Tolkein in my sleep.

Whatever you dream about, whether you remember them or not, whether you think they’re significant or not, we all dream, even if some of us recall it but rarely, and while others have vivid dreams every night. In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul was staying overnight in the town of Troas, where has a dream of a Macedonian man pleading with him: “come over to Macedonia and help us.” Immediately, Paul and his companions are on the move, travelling by ship, crossing over to Macedonia – from Asia into Europe – convinced that this is where God wants them to be. On the Sabbath day following their arrival in Philippi, they exit the city gates and go down to the riverside, hoping to find a place where people gather for prayer and so might be open for conversation. In Philippi, men sitting down at the riverside to chat with women they have not met before hardly seems to raise an eyebrow. One of these women, Lydia, is from Thyatira, and deals in the upmarket purple cloth trade. She’s an eager listener to what Paul has to say. Only a moment seems to pass before she and her household (workers, servants, and possibly slaves) have all been baptized, and now she is inviting Paul and his companions back home. Lydia, it seems, is every bit as decisive as Paul.

Look what happened when Paul pursued his dream, and was faithful to what he thought God wanted of him. It’s quite an undertaking, not one we can do lightly, but there’s a challenge to follow our dream, and to try our best to be faithful to what we believe God wants of us.

And we meet the disabled man at the pool in Jerusalem. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be disabled and then keep trying for thirty eight years to reach the source of healing, always beaten by other people getting there first. That’s almost my whole lifetime! Perhaps the pieces of the jigsaw are in a different order here, but they’re the same pieces: the man has a dream of being healed, he tries to be faithful to what he believes God wants of him – for thirty eight years trying the same thing, if that’s not trying to be faithful, I don’t know what is. And it suddenly ends with Jesus telling him to get up and walk, just as the story in Acts ends with people walking anew in faith.

Follow your dream. Be faithful to what you believe God wants of you. And you can walk anew in faith.

Follow your dream. Be faithful to what you believe God wants of you. And you can walk anew in faith.

As you’ll have seen in the news this week, the survivors and families of the Hillsborough disaster finally received the justice they have sought for so long. Those people followed their dream of justice. They were faithful – for twenty seven years, and now they can walk anew.

A friend of mine, a lifelong Liverpool fan, is now fifty four, and he realised for half of his life he was waiting. He said, “I never wanted revenge (well, maybe I did at first), only justice. It feels as though we got it today”.

These survivors and families had a dream of truth, that truth being justice for their loved ones. They endured politicians of every colour condemning Liverpool unjustly, and keeping an establishment cover up secure. Secretaries of State for Sport on both sides blamed hooligans, and refused the release of official papers. Even a Prime Minister said, “I don’t think we will ever achieve closure on Hillsborough. I don’t think there will ever be one moment when you can say ‘that’s it’. It’s like, what’s the saying, it’s like a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat that isn’t there.”

Yet now there is closure. They followed their dream, they tried to be faithful. They can walk anew.

Of course, in other things it’s much less clear. The doctors tell us they’re pursuing a dream of safe care in a secure National Health Service, which is what they’re trying to be faithful to. While the government tells us they have a dream of healthcare available seven days a week, which they’re trying to be faithful to. Those on both sides of the European question tell us of their dreams, and how they’re faithful to bring them about. If you think I’d be so foolish as to tell you my own opinions were a clear Christian answer, you’ll be disappointed.

Sometimes dreams are clear. Sometimes dreams are complicated, but we’re called by God to be faithful to what we believe it is that God wants of us, and we can walk anew.

On 12 February 1809 a baby boy was born in a one-room log cabin with a dirt floor on a farm in Kentucky. He grew up to be a man of rugged determination. And although he had less than a year of formal education, he succeeded in becoming a lawyer. However he really wanted to make a difference in the world, and so entered politics. He believed that if he was going to have the maximum impact, he would have to become president of the United States. However, he tried and he tried – and he failed and he failed.

In fact, his list of failures was embarrassing:
In 1832 he lost his job and was defeated when standing for the state legislature
In 1833 he failed in business
In 1835 his fiancée died
In 1836 he had a nervous breakdown
In 1838 he was defeated when he stood for the position of Illinois House Speaker
In 1843 he was defeated for nomination for Congress
In 1846 he was elected to Congress, but he lost re-nomination in 1848
In 1849 he was rejected for the position of land officer for Illinois
In 1854 he was defeated in elections for the U.S. Senate
In 1856 he failed to win the nomination for Vice-President
In 1858 he was again defeated in elections for the U.S. Senate
But in 1860 he was elected President of the United States.

You’ve probably guessed that I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln, the greatest of all American Presidents, who led the country through the American Civil War, held the union together, and abolished slavery.

What is your dream? What do you dream of in your life? What do you dream of in this church? What do you dream of in this community? What is your dream?

Whatever your dream, God calls you to follow it, to try and live it, to be faithful to what you believe God wants of you, and, one day, you can walk anew in faith, like the man at the pool, like Paul, like Lydia. Follow your dreams, try to be faithful to what you believe God wants of you, and you can walk anew in faith.

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