A while back I had this dream. It was so vivid, when I woke the next morning, I was able to remember almost every detail. I was a guest teacher at the Christian school where my kids used to be students. I was to give a lecture titled, “The Unseen Kingdom.” This part of the dream was not at all unusual—but of course, nothing in a dream is ever normal, and the twist in this one is that I showed up at the school and I was the only teacher on campus. All the staff must have had the day off, and the entire student body was left in my charge. The gymnasium-auditorium, where I was to do my teaching, had no sound system, no technology whatsoever, and my only means of communication was vain attempts at shouting loud enough to garner attention. An impossible task. Gradually students began to leave the room, my inattentive audience growing smaller and smaller. I was torn between teaching my lesson, or scouring hallways and classrooms (and the parking lot, even) searching for missing students. And in typical dream fashion, it was an impossible situation. So I gave up trying. Left with a handful of students who seemed genuinely interested in my Kingdom message, I invited them to join me, seated in a circle on the floor of the gym. There were twelve students, and me. A significant number. And I woke, wondering, what could this mean?
A few nights ago I dreamed again. And again, I was a teacher. This time it was the actual classroom at the Montessori school, where I’ll be teaching this fall. I was giving a Bible lesson, describing a word picture, or an illustration, although the details are fuzzy. But I do remember with absolute clarity, looking at the children with gut-level conviction, and insisting: Jesus is REAL!! And as soon as I said it, a current began to flow through my body, a sensation like buzzing, and I knew, immediately, it was the Holy Spirit. When I woke, I wasn’t sure if the physical presence had been part of the dream, or my actual experience.
Dreams are interesting, aren’t they? Some more than others.
On the surface, my school-dreams might be easy to explain. God has called me to be a teacher. This has been true for many years, whether through vocational ministry, or volunteer leading, or a return to an actual classroom.
What is also clear, is priority of message. Jesus is real, and so is His Kingdom. This “Kingdom of Jesus” message consumes my waking thoughts, so it stands to reason, it would penetrate, even, to the depths of my dreams.
This summer I had the privilege of speaking at camps for three distinct groups of students. The ages varied from elementary, to middle school, to senior high, and with each age-group I tweaked and modified some rendition of my Kingdom talk. I’d tell the kids about how we often think of God’s kingdom as the place “up there” where we’ll go someday when we die. But when Jesus talked about this kingdom, he always talked about the kingdom of God coming to earth. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
Mark’s Gospel tells us—Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near…” (1:14-15)
In Luke we read—Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God (8:1).
Jesus’ good news (what we call the “gospel”) was always about God’s kingdom arriving here on earth. And the kingdom is REAL.
This weekend I finished reading the most intriguing book. The story is fiction, written by a New Testament professor, primarily to be used as a teaching tool. (It was recommended by my esteemed Bible Project teacher, Tim Mackey, so of course I had to read it.) The Lost Letters of Pergamum is an imagined correspondence between a first-century Roman leader and the author of the gospel we know as Luke. Without spoiling the plot for any of you nerdy enough to actually read this—and I recommend you do—the narrative will immerse you in the tension between the status quo of Roman culture and the startling beauty of the kingdom of believers in the early Church. In an era shaped by empires, power, status and class, this Way of Jesus was a whole new way of being human, and it rocked the world.
And is rocking it, still.
This, at least, is my dream.
The dream I imagine so often in my cognizant thoughts it seeps even into my sleep. This dream of a kingdom so OTHER it defies all categories of what it means to be
home soil or across the globe
Here and now, this side of heaven, in the Year of Our Lord, 2021—I dream of this. A kingdom of followers of this Way of Jesus rising above the systems and powers and ways of this earth…setting aside pride and greed and cruelty and corruption…transformed by love, joy, peace and kindness…together becoming whole and holy…uniting humbly in allegiance to Jesus…
I open my Bible and I read from Revelation:
They sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. (5:9-11)
And I think about John, the disciple. Wondering—what must it might have been like to be the recipient of THIS wild and real, craziest dream?