Sunday, March 24,  10:00 a.m.

Lent 2C 3-17-19                                                                                    St. John's Church

Rev. Jennifer Phillips                      Gen.15:1-12,17-18; Philip.3:17-4:1; Lk 13:31-35


A cool thing about dreams: when you start trying to remember them, when you promise yourself to rouse up out of one and write it down in a notebook by your bed, dreams will come. They will curl round your ankles like the cat wanting attention. They will teach you with their strange and foreign sense and with the detritus of your own consciousness. They speak to you a language half poetry, half looney video, bits of experience spliced with imagination - the conversation you had over dinner, something you read, the jingle from the Lexus ad, your cousin who died when you were seven and the socks you liked to wear then. And with some practice, your dreams can bring you murmurings from the divine. They don't so much present you with information as with an opportunity to enter deeper into relationships - including your relationship with God.

Scripture is full of dreams: Joseph with his embarrassingly pregnant fiancé being reassured. The ancient Joseph sold into slavery who interprets the Pharaoh's troubling dreams. His namesake after so many generations, Joseph of Nazareth being warned to flee a pogrom on the way. Joseph being summoned back by a dream-angel from Egypt once the terror has passed. The twin dream-visions of Jacob: angels on a stairway to heaven going both up and down; a stranger by night coming to wrestle with him in an unwinnable contest that leaves him wounded but wise and ready to reconcile with his estranged brother.

We heard the disturbing dream-vision of Abraham of a smoking firepot in an unseen divine hand passing between the bisected carcasses of his sacrifice on the hillside to seal the deal for his future. He is a childless man well into mid-life and he is not buying the possibility that some brand new God that nobody around him believes in can fulfill a promise to make him a great family in return for leaving the lands of his ancestors where at least he would stand to inherit a whole lot of livestock on the outskirts of a Bronze Age city possibly in Mesopotamia,  in what is now Iraq, or possibly Syria or Turkey. Picture it: Even in sleep, Abram finds himself shaking with night-terrors, alone in a wild place wrapped in his coat against the cold. The friendly stars  that guide nomadic herders seem to have all gone out, along with the fire he must have lit at sundown. He's gone a bit of distance from the carcasses...which likely he worried would attract predatory animals -lions, hyenas, jackals, wolves might be found in those regions. This darkness enwrapping him is thicker than sleep. He can't shake it off. And then glowing just below him an eerie sight -  a pottery fire-bowl and a torch crossing above the bodies of his sacrificed beasts with no human figure moving them.  The ritual he was able to interpret, for such animal sacrifice was familiar to his culture, even if these circumstances were most peculiar: a covenant agreement was being sealed, a promise that could not be undone. Waking, he understood that descendants, land, and a future would come to him if he kept his end of the bargain and left home.

Some dreams came for individual or family assistance, some for whole communities or nations - like some of the patriarch Joseph's; like Martin Luther King Junior's great dream of black and white children at play - a dream both for himself and for his audience then and now.

Jacob after his dream of the ladder realized for the first time that he had been staying on sacred ground - a place of encountering the divine. He responded by building an altar- setting up a stone, and calling the spot Beit-El, the House of God, by promising a tenth part of his goods to God who he understood was promising to be with him as protector and giver of blessings. God in the Book of Numbers (12:6) tells the Israelites:" If anyone among you is a prophet, I will make myself known to that one in a vision, and speak to them in a dream." The prophet Joel (2:28-29) speaks of God's Spirit being poured out on the people in dreams and visions, and in the Pentecost story of the Holy Spirit's outpouring on the followers of Jesus, Peter quotes that very passage from Joel to describe it (Acts 2:17-18). Nearly all the great early theologians of the Church recognized dreams as gifts of Providence for guidance and growth of the soul. Later on, some teachers of the Church began to worry that people would confuse dreams and magic, and misinterpret their symbolic language for harm instead of good.

I never put much credence in the usefulness of dreams, and didn't often bother to remember them, even having studied the psychologist Karl Jung who thought them the key to the soul's secrets. But then when I was a young adult one year my world fell apart in a big way, and a Jungian counsellor got me started with a dream journal and my dreams became memorable for awhile. There was one in which I was driving a blue Volkswagen bug up a mountainside escaping a massive approaching tidal wave, and I did, and woke up knowing I would survive the current miseries and those still threatening. The capsule of spiritual energy in which I traveled had an engine sufficient for the need. The reassurance gave me strength. But my dreams are beside the point...you will want to perhaps explore your own. You don't have to believe in the process to have it be fruitful...just to do it. Have the pen and notebook and flashlight handy. Go to sleep asking God for a dream, and planning to remember what you may dream. And whenever you wake up out of a dream, first thing scribble it down.

Treat your dreams with reverence as a way that spiritual energy flows to you and that you, by observing and reflecting with attention may offer your dreamwork back to God as an offering.

Only you can find real meaning in your own dreams, so take anyone else's analysis with several grains of salt. Notice for yourself: what did you feel? Where was the threat or challenge? Where was the resolution or the hope of it? What question would you like to ask it, and what question does it ask you? Jung suggested all the characters in our dreams, even our dog or the next door neighbor, might best be understood as parts of ourself - qualities liked or loathed, undeveloped bits, bits that want to be seen and listened to, bits that hurt and bits that know something to heal us. They are a God-given aspect of us that can be as constructive as imagination, intuition, or intellect.

Mary Shelley had a waking dream of the plot of her book Frankenstein. Nihls Bohr dreamed the shape and movement of particles in the atom. Einstein dreamed he was sledding down a mountain and from that image came his understanding about the speed of light. The shape of Benzene and the relationship of insulin and sugar came to their discoverers in dreams. Ours may not win us Nobel Prizes, but they may bring some insights for our soul's health: what we may need for better balance, what longings we've overlooked, what scares us and what gives courage.

Lent is a wonderful time to experiment with keeping a dream journal. Go ahead and hide it if you feel silly. No one else needs to read it (and no one should without your consent.) Expect that it will take some practice. Even deep meditation can sometimes produce a dream-state that is revelatory. Dreams at transition and crisis points tend to particularly illuminating and surprising - they can ready us for change, or help us see the impediments in ourselves to moving forward. Jacob was running away from what he believed was his approaching enemy come to kill him. Abraham was frightened and discouraged about his future when he had his dream-vision. Of course dreams can be disturbing and perplexing and cryptic, even overwhelming - the better to get our attention! As a child, I bet you had a recurring nightmare of some sort when life was at a scary turning point - most kids do - and if all goes well when you wake up yelling, an adult appears to comfort and console. Others are wondrous and empowering.

It helps to think of reflecting on dreams like reflecting on a piece of music that may suggest many possible meanings among which you may discern what is helpful and intriguing at the moment. If you keep a journal you may find other meanings useful for other times suggest themselves when you reread later on. One of the premises of Christian life is that God loves us, desires to make Godself known to us, to communicate with us, and come near us. Every capacity we have can be brought to the task of seeking and attending to God and our growth toward God. So adventure bravely this Lent. Go deeper into your dreaming.


WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Sunday Worship: 10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m 

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2018:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips

Sunday, March 24, 10:00 a.m.:
~Holy Eucharist
~K -5 classes 

Saturday, March 30, 8:00 - 10:45 a.m.:
Middle School Youth help at the Norwood Food Pantry

Sunday, March 31, 10:00 a.m.:
~ Holy Eucharist 
~K- 5 and Middle School Classes meet
~Please bring in travel size toiletries for our gift bags for Westwood elders (see ad below)

During Lent this year we are all invited to participate in a Tuesday evening Bible Study program called "It is time to Stop, Pray, Work, Play & Love."  This is a video series and accompanying workbook from the Brothers of SSJE designed to help people with their sense of time, achieve balance and embrace Sabbath wisdom. Even if you can only come on one or two Tuesdays, please join us!

Also during this season of Lent, Jennifer will be preaching a series of sermons entitled: "Go Deep."

Looking Ahead:

April 20 & 21:
The next baptismal opportunity is coming at Easter April 20 & 21. If you have not been baptized and desire to be, or if you have a child to present for baptism, please speak to Rev. Jennifer as soon as possible. Baptisms may also take place on June 9th, Pentecost Sunday.

April 26-29: Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry to visit Diocese of Massachusetts! Plans for how the weekend will take shape are in the works, with an intention to have at least one public gathering with Bishop Curry, in addition to gatherings with other groups in the diocese, such as middle and high school youth. Stay tuned!

Calling all Artists!
Painters, Photographers, Potters, Quilters, Poets, Fiction Writers, Musicians and More--
We need your talents for the St John's Harvest Moon Arts Night next September. Plans are in the very early stage,.  We envision an art exhibit in the Narthex, a poetry reading with open mic signup, maybe dance, instrumental music, song, finger food and wine and sparkling cider, and a silent auction of donated art, from paintings to poetry books. We also need volunteers to  design  a flyer and poster,  handle publicity on social media and in local news outlets, help with planning, managing and organizing the art, to do setting up and breaking down of the exhibit, to organize the silent auction, to help with the food and drink, and to do cleanup.
If you are an artist, let me know about your talent. If you are a master organizer, or helper, we need you, too. Many hands will make light work!

Lynne Viti
cell 781 248 5020

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in downtown Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors from Boston to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.

Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

Eucharistic Visiting members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!