A Dream: Pentecost, Luke 13:10-17


I had a dream a few days ago. I was the president. .Instead of living in the White House, I chose to live near my old neighborhood in the city. There was a Three-story walk up with a finished basement, front and back porches, nice and airy. I thought by moving into the old neighborhood things would improve for the folks who still lived there. Better schools, teachers, health facilities, safer streets, better quality of life. But my security detail blocked the streets, went door to door and removed the petty theives, We all knew who they were and they were basically harmless, and of course they went to town with drug users and the derelict who I would talk to on the way to the store. They tried to make it too safe. Old friends started to complain.

On top of that my landlady was bent over, hard of hearing and half blind. She lived on the first floor and she was the queen of the house and demanded attention. Seriously, this was my dream. Would I continue to live in my neighborhood or would I move to the projects a half mile away? Or would I move back to Washington and live in the neighborhood behind the Capitol Building. That’d show ‘em.

I woke troubled that my radical behavior caused such problems for my friends in the old neighborhood. When Jean woke I told her my dream and she remembered an old Hindi story about a King who was attacked by a tiger. Three monks who were nearby scared the tiger away and saved the kings life.

Grateful the king invited the three monks to his palace. When they arrived the King served them food and drink and said, “I am deeply grateful to you for saving my life. I will grant you one wish and if it is within my power I will see that your wish is honored. The first monk said, “Thank you, my village needs electricity.” “ Granted”, exclaimed the King. The second monk asked for a van and a road that would connect his village to a hospital. That wish too was granted by the King.

The King asked the third monk for his wish. The monk said to the King. “Your Majesty, wife and I have talked to the village leaders and we have agreed that we wish you to come live in our house. My wife and I would like to cook for you and you would come to know how good our people are and how much they love you.” After some thought, the King turned to the monk and said, “I will come.”

The Moral of the story is: “When you invite the divine to live with you, when you feed and love the holy, all the rest will follow.”

The moral of my dream?  The president is not divine?

Now back to the dream. The iconic Boston Three-decker with its finished basement offered a way to look at how we look at the spiritual life, religious tradition and in our case, scripture. I suspect it applies to any scripture, but for Christians it’s the specifically Christian scripture and those parts of the Hebrew bible that we tend to choose to help fortify our particular religious perspective. Cynthia Bourgeault in “The Wisdom Way of Knowing” writes about the four senses of scripture.

My dream basement where my security team hangs out is the “by the book” gang. Bourgeault calls them the literalists. They are the earliest stage, and we can see it developmentally in children as well as being acted into adulthood. The Bible tends to be interpreted as a rule book by which to live the Christian life. There is little tolerance for ambiguity. My bent woman in today’s scripture is the subject of this literalism by the religious official. He takes the command to “Keep holy the Sabbath” literally. The literalists in our day either disregard the miraculous healings of Jesus or they get stuck with; “if the bible said it, it must be true just as it is written”. The woman was healed by Jesus and that’s it. Case closed.

The first floor is the one through which everything is seen through the prism of Christ. Bourgeault argues that “this process may seem forced if you are not a Christian”, yet it is a step beyond the stunted literalism of the basement floor because it requires imagination, the use of analogy and metaphor. It is the beginning of creativity and art. “Around the Center point of Christ {one] is learning to tap into those more subtle and ‘image forming and symbolic categories’ of a heart that is coming into its own.”

The Second floor is the floor of growth. At this stage (one) sees that the scriptures are patterns for the soul’s journey. It is on this floor that there is room for both play and pray. My Japanese roommate years ago had difficulty pronouncing his ‘r’s’. So the word pray became play. One begins to “play in the fields of the holy. One tends to see the real through the eyes of the divine. The old neighborhood becomes a holy field, its streets, trees, people, residents, its pure beauty which breaks the heart, the years of families, of devotion and betrayal, of heartache, of abuse and sorrow and tragedy, all is becoming a part of the sacred vessel in which the dream takes me. It is a floor for growing into the divine heart, the open heart, the heart of God.

The Third Floor of my three-decker where my dream has deposited me Bourgeault calls the “unitive” stage. The image I had was a room filled with light that did not burn, of a communion of communions where all beings were gathered at table with the divine. In the middle of the room was the divine and next to the divine sat Mert, the developmentally disabled woman in the congregation to which I was now speaking. In fact around this table were many of the bent women and men, handicapped, mentally tortured, and then the rest of us, the mostly, more or less, normal people,  whoever they are. And there are birds, and the roof is also open to the night sky where in the darkness one can see galaxies, planets, and a crescent moon. It reminded me of Jean Vanier’s, L’Arche community in a way, but universal. Every race, religion, political persuasion, was gathered there being drawn to the light and love of the heart of God.

In my dream did I mention that I was Black? In the dream it was not an issue. Upon waking I could see through the lens of race and how it is a factor for the neighbors. I am not invited into the homes of many. There are the old wounds of racism and prejudice. The systems will have to be torn apart and down and replaced. That will take time. But all I can see now is how the bent woman in the scripture for this week, the one Jesus healed can be seen through different floors of our faith journey.

I knew that the woman who lived on the first floor, bent and half-blind and hard of hearing was one who would need my sitting with, perhaps for hours at a time. Somehow she was the key, the door into my house and into the heart of God. And in some real ways that old woman was me.