The Very Rev. Tom Callard – October 11, 2020
Have you ever had the dream where you are at school and you’re naked? Or the dream where you’ve got to get someplace really important but you can’t get there and you’re late and when you finally get there you don’t know what you’re doing and nothing works out right.
A couple weeks ago I had a dream, and I told my wife about it in the morning, it was a dream where the Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, was coming to Christ Church Cathedral, but I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t find my clothes. I couldn’t find my collar and my robes were missing and the bulletins weren’t printed and the heat wasn’t on and it was just a big mess. And I woke up and said thank God that was just a dream.
These anxiety dreams are actually pretty common. And they’ve done studies about why we have dreams like this. In 2014, a group of researchers at the Sorbonne interviewed a number of people who were just about to take the medical school entrance exam, these potential future doctors. And they asked them about their dreams. And it turns out that nearly three-quarters of these students had dreamt of their medical school exam at least once before the test, and almost all of these dreams were anxiety dreams where they got lost on the way, or they were writing in ink that they could not see, or they were at the test but they didn’t know any of the answers.
And when the researchers who did this study compared these students’ dreams with the actual grades that the students got, they found something interesting. They found that the students who dreamed about the exam the most actually had the best grades. And that the students with the top five grades all had multiple dreams where they got lost on the way to the exam or they showed up unprepared or they were in the classroom naked.
So researchers believe there is something about these anxiety dreams, even though they are uncomfortable, there is something about them that helped the students prepare in real life and helped them manage their anxiety in a way that led to success.
So is it possible that our dreams can help us in life? Yes they can. There is something about our dreams that takes these real-life situations that we face during the day and calms them and controls them and helps us focus beyond them so we can succeed. And it does this not by addressing our life or figuring out our life logically or rationally, but by putting our lives into the hands of these images which speak to our soul.
Carl Jung, the noted Psychologist, believed that there was a strong connection between dreams and the images of dreams and our spirituality. He said that “The dream is the hidden door into the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul.”
So today, I want to talk a little bit about dreams, because I think what happens in dreams is the same thing that happens in parabless. Today Jesus gives us this parable about a King holding a wedding banquet. And the reason I started thinking about dreams is because I read this parable last week about the king and nobody showed up and then there was ing up and this person who’s not dressed for the wedding, and I said to myself – isn’t this a dream?
In the parable, a King is trying to get people to come to the wedding banquet, but nobody comes. So he sends people out to get guests, but nothing works. The people he sends out are mocked, and ignored, and beaten, and killed. And finally he forces people into the banquet, but there is this one person who’s not dressed, just like my dream with the Presiding Bishop.
It’s not a dream, but what Jesus is doing in the parables is speaking in this dream-like language that connects this message to the soul. In another parable, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. He’s not saying that we should believe in our brains that the Kingdom of God is literally this small. He’s not trying to get us to figure it out logically. But he wants to talk to our soul.
Jesus has come to this world, sent by God the Father, the Creator. And what God does through Jesus is to use things of world to bring us back to God, to lead us to that which is out there and around and within us, this truth which is so big and powerful and vast. Yet which we can not be understand logically. Imagine we try and understand God logically and that just doesn’t happen. We try and picture the Kingdom of God in our brains and that just doesn’t make sense.
So Jesus preaches and teaches and tells stories as invitations to something difficult to understand. And he brings us again and again to this place which we can’t see, which we can’t know, yet which is still true. This kingdom where the hungry are fed and the lame can walk and the blind can see. Where captives are freed and those who weep are comforted and where the meek inherit the earth.
If you take this Kingdom that Jesus talks about and expose it to reality, it’s like looking at your dream after you wake up. It just kind of doesn’t make sense. And your brain says: that doesn’t exist. That can’t be. What kind of crazy dream-world is it where the hungry are fed and the lame can walk and the meek will inherit the earth? But to our souls, to those parts within us where God resides which are exposed to the logic of dreams, what the parables says is absolutely reasonable and it’s certainly true.
By talking in parables, Jesus tells us not what is true for the brain but what is true for the soul. The truth that above and beyond this kingdoms of the world is another other kingdom, of goodness and justice and mercy and peace. And that though we may not fully live in it now, we should know that it exists, and it can come to be here on earth. And that we are those who are called to help make it so.
And so we go to our parable today of the Wedding Banquet and the King and we see that there is an indescribable truth here told in these images of kings and banquets and guests, which is that God so desperately loves us that God has gone to great lengths to get us to come in and to draw close and to abide with God. This is what Jesus today is saying to our soul.
Now in our waking life, maybe this sounds crazy, or this parable sounds like the story of a desperate King who is no more than an anxious a six year old waiting for other kids to come to his party. And maybe it makes no sense at all.
But what does this parable say to our soul? That we are loved. That to God we are worth so much that God will do anything to draw us near.
And so in our daytime lives, we’re busy –going about our business, or worrying about our money, or thinking about the pandemic, or anxious about the election. And we are distracted with the pursuits of this world and the things we do. But that’s not the whole truth. And the truth the parable tells us is that beyond this scurrying life, God loves us. No matter how it goes, God loves us.
And not only that, we hear today that in that parable that God will cast away evil. God will take evil and throw it into the outer darkness. That’s part of the promise Jesus gives us. So we take a look at the fact that this hasn’t happened yet, the fact that evil still exists in this world and let it not be for us a cause for fear. Don’t think too much about evil. It might seem crazy for us to believe that God will vanquish evil and cast it into the outer darkness. It’s okay that it seems crazy. And it’s okay that it hasn’t happened. Because this is not a story to tell our brain in the light of the day. But it’s a story to touch our soul. And to keep us going.
The medical students who dreamed about the exam did better on their test because their dreams touched something within them that kept them going. We turn to Jesus and hear these parables because it helps keep us going and it feeds us in the depths of our soul. We turn to the parables to get a sense of what Jesus is and what God can do and it helps not let the craziness of this world affect us.
The more time we spend in life trying to understand this world, the more we struggle, and the crazier it seems. I try and understand, for example, why, in Michigan, my home state, there are white supremacists who would try to kidnap the governor and charge her with treason, why that would happen. I try and understand it, and the more I try, the less things like this makes sense.
We can not get through life just relying on the power of our brains trying to figure things out. But with every chance we have, we are invited to draw close to Jesus and his parables and his kingdom and what he offers, and find the strength we need there. And there in Jesus’s message we will find what makes sense. It’s strange to think that we have to find what makes sense not in the world but in these fantastic parables from over 2000 years ago. But that’s how it is.
So draw near to Jesus and banquet he prepared for us. Know the amazing love God has for us and the power God has to cast away the evil of the world, come close again and again and we will be prepared for this great test, which is the test of life.