Dreaming Larger Dreams
By Pastor Tom Thresher (2/13/11)
Hear an audio recording of this Sunday's reflection:
Part 1(format: mp3)
Part 2(format: wmv)
Part 3(format: mp3)
Part 4(format: wmv)
Part 5(format: mp3)
Read the text:
My topic today is called “Dreaming Larger Dreams.”
I want to set this in the context of a wonderful movie I watched this week, called “Invictus,” which is the title of a poem. It is the story of Nelson Mandela, shortly after the end of apartheid, and he has become president of South Africa.
The story is around the national rugby team called the Springboks. The Springboks are loved by the white Afrikaners. They are a symbol of national unity and pride… even though they lose all the time.
The black community goes to rugby games to cheer for whoever is beating the Springboks. That’s the kind of polarization we’re talking about.
Mandela sees this situation as an opportunity to unify the country around this sport, and he invites the captain of the team to come have tea with him. He makes this extraordinary statement — a question. He asks, “How can we inspire ourselves to greatness when only greatness will do?”
How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when only greatness will do?
It has much to do with our times right now. We as a species, we as a global spaceship hurtling through space face unprecedented changes and challenges as a species. The demands on us are to be great when nothing less than greatness will do.
And it’s dramatically different than the greatness we have expected of ourselves with different challenges. It’s not about going out and being victorious in war, or challenges, or overcoming this or that adversary.
The challenges for us now are about humility, about surrender, about caring, about opening our hearts and seeing ourselves in a dramatically different relationship to one another and to our earth. Our survival might depend upon living into that greatness.
This kind of talk is cheap — anybody can stand up here and say this. The question is, how do we actually begin living into that greatness?
And, given that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, the question comes up around love.
The book Sue is reading touched on this very nicely. We need to learn something from the Inuits, the Eskimos that live in frozen areas — they have 29 different words for snow. They can tell you differences in snow, and they have a very precise understanding of what each of those means.
We use “love” to cover everything. It’s a non-descript word. If you’ll notice, I try not to use it here, because it’s so non-descript.
When I say “love,” do I mean the kind of love I have for my wife? Do I mean the kind of love I have for you, my friends? Do I mean the kind of love I have for my car, because it gets me from Point A to Point B? Do I mean the kind of love when I say, “I love a great football game”?
All of those are enclosed within the idea of “love.”
I looked briefly at a thesaurus. For love, there’s this really short list of synonyms. For “money,” the list of synonyms goes clear off the page. It tells us where our values lie.
So what I’d like to do is bring this question of “love” to our scripture. Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”
Am I going to love my enemies the way I love Pam? Am I going to love my enemies the way I love my dog? Or am I going to love my enemies the way I love my car?
What I’d like to do is ask the question: When Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” what is he pointing to? What kind of love is he talking about?
Again, I want to use this movie as… a nice piece here to connect this.
The setting for this first clip is: the Sports Authority — after the fall of apartheid, and Mandela is now president — has met together and has decided that they will take the name of the rugby team away — they will no longer be the Springboks — they will eliminate the colors, and they will eliminate their logo. And Mandela has heard about this happening. Now, the whole Sports Council, which looks like a hundred people, has met together and voted unanimously to make this change. And Mandela shows up, and this is what he asks them.
|Excerpt from the movie Invictus|
He touches on what I’d like to suggest is the first piece of that “love your enemies”: acceptance. Profound acceptance.
He tells the story of being in prison for 27 years. And what does he do? Does he resist his jailers?
No. He enters their life. He engages their life. He reads their books. He studies them. He comes to know them. You can’t do that without opening your heart to receive them and accept them as they are, and hold them.
By the way, it does not stop him from overcoming them.
For the principle of acceptance doesn’t wear rosy glasses. It asks, “Who are these people? And can I know them without my own lenses? Can I know them directly as who they are?”
Because in this example, as soon as apartheid changed, they were partners. What an extraordinary shift!
This would be as if you were held captive by the Taliban, and you had a choice: Will I resist them, or will I try to understand why they perceive me as the enemy? Will I enter into this risky business of accepting who they are and being changed by them, in a way that allows me to open my heart? So that when they are defeated, or whatever happens, they can become full partners with us.
Full partners who we do not give guns to. I’m serious — this is a piece of it. Piece of it is that this loving acceptance while acknowledging who your enemy is.
That’s Part 1.
The next part comes — I love this scene. Mandela, as you might imagine, has bodyguards. They’re all black, and they’re needing more bodyguards. So Mandela sends these bodyguards to them who are white, and who happen to be part of the secret police that guarded de Klerk and the Afrikaners. So the scene we have here is the head of security storming into Mandela’s office to say, “What the hell’s going on here?”
|Excerpt from the movie Invictus|
Forgiveness liberates the soul.
That is why it is such a powerful weapon. And that’s the other piece — that’s the piece that comes with acceptance: forgiveness.
Forgiveness has nothing to do with your enemy. All of the work of forgiveness is internal. The requirement of forgiveness is that we grieve. We grieve our loss, our hurt, our pain, and whatever has happened to us at the hands of the enemy. We grieve it fully.
And then we look at our stories about it. We look at the stories we create to maintain and perpetuate our grief and our loss, and to give us an excuse to hurt back.
Forgiveness demands that we look at all those stories. And we look at them and we question into them, not until they change but until they dissolve.
Forgiveness is not something we can do. We can only create the space for it to emerge, because forgiveness is at the core of the universe — is at the core of our being.
We will naturally love our enemies if we allow our garbage to get out of the way.
And that’s the second piece.
This changes for me quite dramatically the notion that I should love my enemies. I don’t want to love my enemies like I love my wife. I’d actually like to love them more than I love my car, because I actually don’t like my car that much.
And I think we have a different way of coming at this — that we can look to those we perceive who hurt us, who actively want to do us harm, by first accepting who they are, their motives, and knowing them well, and then finding that place of forgiveness within our hearts.
Then something different emerges — something you can trust.
May we all taste that love.