It’s easy to dismiss dreams. While we may find them interesting, we rarely take them seriously. If our dreams have been pleasant, we smile to ourselves as we wake, realizing that what had seemed so real in our sleep fades quickly as we regain consciousness. Or, if the visions we experienced were unsettling, we sigh with relief when we wake up and comfort ourselves by saying, “it was just a dream.”
In Scripture, dreams are not so easily dismissed. The Bible presents dreams as an accepted way that God communicates with humans. Jacob dreams of a ladder that extends from earth to sky, with angels moving up and down the rungs. When he wakes, he knows God is with him. In the New Testament, after Mary has become pregnant and Joseph has decided to leave her, an angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him not to be afraid; that Mary’s child is of the Holy Spirit. He should take Mary as his wife and name the child Jesus. Far from dismissable, dreams in the Bible move the narrative in a new direction. They change the story.
This weekend, we celebrate the life of another famous, faithful dreamer: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is imprinted on our national identity. Delivered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August of 1963, his powerfully articulated vision for racial equality moved our national narrative in a new direction. It changed our story.
And while change was galvanized by the words of Dr. King, it was supported and embodied by those who heard the dream; those who experienced its power and responded. As was true for the dreamers in the Bible, dreams that make a difference are not experienced passively. Reality shifts when we listen, and then act. That action may not, in and of itself, change the world. But it brings change into the world—life giving energy that the Holy Spirit can use in service of God’s dream for us.