Joel 2:21-29, Acts 2:1-16- 22-24
May 15, 2016
When I think about “Dreams and Visions,” the first thing I think about is the birth accounts of Jesus – the Christmas story! If you remember that story, you’ll remember how Angels come to various people in both dreams and visions. To Joseph it was a dream. To Mary and the shepherds, it was a vision.
Then I think about the Prophets of the Old Testament. God told the prophets many things through dreams and through visions. I think of the vision of Isaiah in the temple, the vision of Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry. And the very strange visions of Ezekiel!
By quick definition – and this is very simplistic – Dreams are things we see when we are asleep. Visions are things we see when we are awake. Both can be visual and spiritual connections with God. At times, (not always!) they are God telling someone something.
There are some would be skeptical about the interpretation of dreams. I don’t know for sure. And I think sometimes people “overdo” it. But I do know that it happened all the time in the Bible. Dream interpretation was the basis for Joseph going, from being a prisoner in Egypt, to second in command of that empire! What a great story that was! Time and time again, God used the people’s belief in the significance of dreams, to his glory!
So here the prophet Joel tells of the day when God would, not just put his spirit on all flesh, but “pour out” his spirit. That was the passage quoted by Peter in this story of Pentecost. As he “‘splained” the events that day, he told the people that it was a all a fulfillment of that prophecy, the prophecy of Joel.
Now, as we look at this story, I want you to think about this. In the “olden days,” in the Old Testament days, things like Dreams and Visions happened to the prophets. They happened to the great leaders and the patriarchs – the special people God called to special tasks. Moses saw “The burning bush.” Joseph dreamed dreams of his dominance over his brothers. (And if you recall, they didn’t like that!!)
Well, that’s all great! That was often the way God spoke to the people he called. But here we have Joel telling of a time when it wouldn’t be just people like that. God would pour out his spirit on “all flesh.” That had to have
been shocking to his readers! Look who he says would be touched by this “pouring out” of the Spirit. It will be old men, and young men. It will even be manservants and maidservants! It will even be Fishermen – like Peter! It will even be us!
Today is Pentecost. And Pentecost is about God “starting something!” It’s about God starting in his people the age of the Church. And, as I’ve said before, when God starts something he really starts something!
A few weeks ago, I talked about the Exodus story. And I said how God could have just “arranged” for those people to leave Egypt. He had that power! He could have “changed the heart” of Pharaoh, and… the people could have just left – all six hundred thousand of them. But, as I said then, I believe God has a “great flair for the dramatic!” And in the case of the Exodus, God wanted to do what he did in a dramatic way, a way that would inspire the people’s hearts, in a way that would give them their identity for centuries to come!
Well, this is the same thing. Here we have these “supernatural” events of Pentecost! Here we have the sound of a “mighty wind,” we have people speaking other languages, we have Peter, no longer timid, preaching boldly! Soon there would be stories of healing, of more visions, of people being “spirited away” from one place to another! It’s all high drama – drama that would continue throughout the book of Acts.
God has a great flair for the dramatic! When God acts, he makes liberal use of the “exclamation point!” We should remember that “exclamation point!” God was using a lot of those on Pentecost – and throughout this book! And if we think some of these stories in Acts seem a bit harsh or severe, we need to remember the exclamation point! We need to remember what God was trying to establish. It was all about starting things in a big way.
Well, I’d like to suggest to you today that he does the same thing with us. There might not always be big, dramatic spiritual events in our lives. But I’ll bet we could all think back on some. I’ll bet we can all think back on events we could point to as our own personal “Pentecost.” Think about that. What were the foundational events in your life of faith? Did they make you who you are? Did they give your identity as a person of God?
Maybe it was a retreat, or a camping experience. A lot of lives have been changed at Kirkwood. I always think of that place as “Holy Ground.” That’s what I tell the campers. I tell them, be open! Be aware of how God might be touching you in a significant way. Maybe you can point to that kind of experience in your life, or that kind of place. Maybe it was Kirkwood!
I really believe that’s how God works with us. He gives us “life changing” experiences. He gives us dreams and visions. Oh maybe they’re not “visible” ones like these, maybe they’re not even all that “dramatic.” But I still believe God does that. He touches our hearts. He inspires our minds, to make us who we are, and to point us to his kingdom.
So, I’ll tell you today what I tell the Kirkwood campers. Be open to God. Be aware of what God might be doing in your life. Be aware of how he might be touching you. And that means that you might have to “step out of the way.” You might need to take yourself out of the center of your own vision!
That’s not easy! We spend a lot of our time thinking of things and observing life from our perspective. We interpret things that happen to us through our own thoughts and our own experiences. And one of the things our faith calls us to do is to see the world through God’s eyes. We have a song we sing at first service called “Through Jesus’ Eyes.” It says, “See the light! See the light! Look at life through Jesus’ eyes.”
That’s the way we start to see God working. That’s the way we start to see “Dreams and Visions.” That’s the way God “pours out his Spirit” on us! Maybe God will be “starting something new” in you!
“And it shall come to pass, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh. And your sons and daughters will prophecy, and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on your manservants and your maidservants I will pour out my spirit!”
Eternal God, help us to see through your eyes. Help us to recognize your hand in our lives and your spirit in our hearts. Change us and make us new. Make us fit for your kingdom every day. Fill us with your Spirit, and your vision. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.