You can listen to the full sermon here.
YouTube video link coming soon...
YouTube video link coming soon...
Or read the rough draft of the manuscript here...
Coming back from mission trip is often when I am most on fire for my faith. And I've had a week to recover from the trip, but not yet come down from that high. Y'all are in for it. ;-) The trip was incredible and gave all 19 of the youth and 7 of us adults the opportunity to serve an immigrant community in Costa Rica known as Pavas. As you've heard from our TWAMers this morning, it was a transformative experience... for the people in our neighborhood, and for us.
For the families, it was a lifelong dream realized, giving them a future and a hope. And for our kids, it inspired a few dreams of what their lives can be, and we pray as leaders, alters their future and gives them hope. And we, as adults, are inspired once more to dedicate our lives to serving the Lord every day, not giving up on dreaming what God may be calling us to do.
One of my favorite films centers on one man following his dreams with his family and the people put in his path along the way, the dreams of everyone he encounters. Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones, among others, is one I've seen countless times. As Kostner's character Ray lies awake one night with his wife, having already plowed his cornfield for a baseball field, he muses that his father must have had dreams, but he never did anything about them.
He never did anything about them.
On Ray's journey, he encounters some wild and colorful characters and feels driven to help people reach their dreams. He learns of a man named Moonlight Graham. He goes searching for him and discovers that DOCTOR Graham passed away some years before. A retired journalist reads them his obituary, detailing a life of quiet service and love. Not just a doctor, but a hero who provided children in need with the necessities and the occasional ticket to the ballpark, a real hometown hero. In interviewing the townspeople who knew him, they learned how this saint had changed the lives of everyone who lived there, famous only for caring for the needy and loving his wife in equal measures of devotion.
What on earth does any of this have to do with baseball? wonders our hero, Ray, he muses as he goes for moonlight stroll. In his stroll, he wanders back in time and meets Doc Graham. They share a cup of coffee and the elderly doctor tells him his story. He played in the minor leagues and finally got called up. He rode the bench and finally got called out of the dugout to outfield for a game. The ball never made it out of the infield and he never got to bat. Knowing he was going back to the minors was crushing, and he went home and became a doctor.
Ray asks him if he could fulfill any dream, have just one wish, what would it be?
Doc Graham says he never got to bat in the majors. He says he'd like to face down a major league pitcher, let him go into his windup, and just before the pitch, wink. Make him think he knew something he didn't. Connect with the ball, run the bases, stretch a double into a triple, and flop face first into third, wrap his arms around the bag. That is his wish.
Ray excitedly tells him that his baseball field is where dreams come true, that players long gone come back to play and live their dreams and begs him to go with him. He politely declines.
On Ray's drive home with the author played by James Earl Jones, he sees a young kid hitchhiking. They give him a lift and he introduces himself as Archie Graham. They take the kid to his Iowa farm where he gets to play with the legends, they greats, and even fulfill his dream, arms around the bag and all.
Ray has done it, fulfilled his dreams.
And then in the climax of the film, Ray's extended family come to ruin things. They don't believe in the magic and can't see the ballplayers. A confrontation occurs and Ray's daughter falls from the bleachers, laying motionless on the ground not breathing. As the mother runs for the house to call the paramedics, Moonlight Graham jogs in from the outfield. He stops at the edge of the field, a boundary the players have never crossed in the film. He drops his glove and slowly steps across, instantly becoming an old man in his wool suit and overcoat, carrying his medical bag. He sits the young girl up and sees she's choking. He gives her a few hard thumps on the back, she coughs up a hotdog, and is just fine. Ray and his wife begin thanking him profusely, and he says, "No. Thank YOU."
Oh my God, you can't go back, Ray says, realizing the profound sacrifice he's made. He begins to apologize and he's interrupted. Doc Graham tells him it's worth it. He gives him a look, and Ray remembers his words in the diner several nights before when he tried to persuade him to come with him. The doc had told him to have his dream come so close was devastating, like having your dreams brush by you like a stranger in a crowd. Ray says, it would kill most men to come so close, to only have 5 minutes to live their dream, that they'd consider it a tragedy! Doc Graham shakes his head and says, no. If I had only gotten to be a doctor for 5 minutes, that would be a tragedy. And the doc leaves, making his way through the legends who had razzed him as a rookie for days, patting him on the back and giving him accolades, he was their hero.
Ray spent the movie trying to help people fulfill their dreams, their one wish, only to discover that many of those dreams were a passing fantasy, and while exciting and momentarily fulfilling, it was not the dream to which they were called by God to be who they were called to be. James Earl Jones helps him to see that his true calling is not to run around as an errand boy to a voice, but to love and appreciate his family, his father, and all he'd been given with the same passion he'd gone he distance for. He had to learn to pursue not what was fleeting and personal, but eternal and godly (that which God dreams for God’s people and creation)…
How many of us doggedly pursue dreams of ambition, personal fulfillment, and good intentions for ourselves and others without pausing for a moment to consider if it is the dream God is calling us to pursue? In the busyness and whirlwind of our lives in this country and this day and time, are we truly pausing to ask ourselves what plans God has, how God calls us to use our gifts to serve all those in need. The master in our Gospel story gives gifts to his servants. The good servants don't use those gifts for self-improvement, but rather to show their thankfulness to the master for his trust and generosity. Have we done the same? Do we pursue what is fleeting and personal, or eternal and godly?
Have we used our vocations, our skills, our resources to acquire and maintain at our worst, accolades and a lifestyle, and at our best, security and safety? Have we challenged our kids to give selflessly, to risk their popularity, their future, and themselves to follow God's call on their lives? The Bible challenges boldly with these questions! The psalmist does not speak of the mother sparrow who builds a safe nest far from danger and risk, but one who builds her nest close to the altar, the mother who offers herself and her young before the Lord to go and be and do what the Lord calls her to go and be and do.
But, Brian! Your story was about a doctor! I am working hard to put my kid in the right private school or AP class or get them a sports scholarship! They have talent! Yes, they do! Yes YOU do! So are you pursuing a life of service or a life of security and self satisfaction and comfort? This is a question we ask of ourselves every single mission trip. That is one of the most valuable parts of these trips. I was reminded of a talented young man at a Florida university who had the opportunity to play starting quarterback and told the offensive coordinator he was thrilled for the opportunity, but would need a week off during camp to go on his church mission trip. The coordinator told him he was nuts to jeopardize this chance and possibly his career to miss out and go do this. The brave young man said he understood that was a risk, but that was a priority to him and his family. The head coach heard about this dedication to this calling God had placed on his heart and Tim Tebow was able to go on his mission trip AND start as quarterback, retaining his chance for a career in the NFL, but that was not promised to him for the risk he took. He pursued not what was fleeting and personal, but eternal and godly.
Are the dreams you are chasing or building your life around, or preparing for your children the lives of safety, security, and acclaim, or lifelong service and pursuit of God's ongoing call? Have you carved out time for your family to be dedicated disciples present in worship, active in faith community, and prioritized your time and resources, and dedicated your entire family to serving others above the fleeting dreams we all have? If I'd only gotten to be a doctor for 5 minutes, that would be a tragedy. The kind of doctor that Doc Graham was.
The youth on our trip don't just give a week of time and energy. You don't just give money to build houses or send kids out of the country. Our youth bring love and hope to the hopeless and downtrodden. Your resources provide HOMES for families who have dreamed of nothing greater. Our youth come to appreciate who greatly and richly they are blessed AND how they should respond in gratitude for the rest of their lives. We help them grow their roots down deep into the lord so they respond in thankfulness, so they respond as good and faithful servants who seek every opportunity to serve the Lord because God expects them to use what he has given them!
It's risky! I don't usually recruit for mission trip by telling kids and parents how risky it is. It's not the neighborhood, or the travel, or the governments, or the poverty, or the people we encounter, or the groups we work alongside, or dangerous heretical ideas with which they could come into contact. Those are not the risks and the dangers. The risk is that they will begin to dream dreams of God's call on their life, to seek and save the lost, to put service and love above safety, security, career, or the American dream. They will dream big and pursue what is eternal and godly.
Our YWAM liaison, Mark, is a Kiwi, a New Zealander with a heart for the world and for mission, who shares his dream with his wife and 3, soon to be 4, kids to serve others in love and with all his gifts of leadership and music and hard work. His father, he told me, once asked him what he would do about money and retirement. Had God provided for those things? What would Mark do when he was old? Mark bravely, and with no naivety at all, told his father that then perhaps he would go to Asia and die in poverty like most of the world does. I was floored. Mark trusted God to provide for his needs so completely that he was going to give his all and follow the Lord wherever he called, whatever is eternal and godly.
I've told some of you that I spoke at length with Pedro, the father of the family that my work team built a house with and for. His arm around me, he told me in Spanish that GOD had built this house, that we were his family now, that we were always welcome, as all of you are, and that one day when he saw God, he would tell him about us.
God dreams for us, brothers and sisters, and God dreams BIG. We are the wicked servant whenever we dream small or dream for ourselves and our children in small ways. But when we step aside, when we pray, when we seek, when we find need and meet it with great love, giving all of our heart in thankfulness with our roots deep in the Lord, we are the good and faithful servant. When you pour out your resources to send young people to change lives and be transformed, when you join us and travel to those in need, when you step aside from micromanaging your life and the life of your children to set them on a road measured by success and security and prestige and allow them to seek God's call, we dream big, we love deeply, and discover the hopes and future God calls us to be a part of.
I challenge you this week... yes, more homework... sit down. Sit down alone or with your spouse, your children, your parents. Sit down and dream together. Ask yourselves about your own gifts. What do you have in small portion or abundance? Then ask yourself what dreams God may have for each of you. How will you serve, how will you make use of what the master has given you? Will you be serving this year here, in our community, on mission trip? Will you be volunteering or giving of your time and resources in some new way? Make a list of the biggest dreams you can dream for how you are maybe being called to serve and use those many "talents" the master has given you. Put that list on your fridge and keep looking at it, adding to it, changing it, and keep dreaming big.
There's a big old mission field of dreams in this world. And when you have dreamed and done and become, you will stand before the Lord, and a little man named Pedro will be there to introduce you, and the Lord will say, "well done, good and faithful servant." Amen.
Isn't it strange, that princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common-folk like you and me,
are builders for eternity?
To each is given a bag of tools,
a shapeless mass and a Book of Rules;
and each must make 'ere time has flown,
a stumbling block or a stepping stone.