A Farewell Discourse

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Donna Ialongo

Preached on: August 6th, 2017

The Transfiguration


No recording

Scripture Text:

Luke 6: 28


I want to tell you about a dream I had. It is, by far, the most vivid, memorable dream of my entire life. I still remember every detail even though I dreamt it in January of 1999. The images are clear, distinct, and full of life.

What I remember from the beginning of the dream is that I was approaching a dark, dense forest of pine trees. I walked into the forest; I was walking north. After a while, I came out from the trees into the light of the sun and before me was a flat, circular grassy area with a diameter of about 100 yards.
The pine forest surrounded this big circle.

There were four quadrants. In the northeast quadrant, three men were standing. Two were in dark suits talking to the third who was wearing a flight jacket and a World War I leather flying cap — the kind Snoopy wears in the Peanuts cartoons. I walked toward the men.

As I came closer, I noticed that the man who looked like an aviator had a short beard and a captivating smile. When I reached him, the other two men had disappeared and he was standing next to a strange object. It looked as if two wings of an airplane, each about 15 feet long, had been firmly attached to each other. At the tips of each wing were pieces of similar material that were vertical to the ground, holding the wings up.

The man looked at me and said, “Come, fly with me.”

I replied, “Are you crazy? This thing is not capable of flight.”

“Trust me,” he said quietly, “Come, with me.”

And I asked, “What are you smoking?”

He laughed and answered; “See this metal ring where the two wings join?”

It was like the ring on a key chain.

He went on: “Just hook one finger in it next to mine, and we’ll take off.”

He paused, smiled again, and said, “Hey, what have you got to lose? If it doesn’t work, you’ll be no worse for wear. If it does, you’ll have a wonderful ride.”

I thought I might as well humor him, so I put my finger next to his in the ring.

Instantaneously, we were high in the air. I don’t remember taking off. There we were, traveling at an incredible speed, but not feeling the wind at all. It was breathtaking to look down on the farms and cities beneath our feet. We were flying in a northeasterly direction.

And suddenly, we were over a large city. I knew, there is no reason why I should have known, but I knew it was Philadelphia. Geographically, it was nothing like the city in Pennsylvania. There was a 20,000-foot mountain to the east of the city. We landed on top of the mountain. It was like stepping off an escalator.

The man turned to me, pointed to the land 20,000 feet below us, and said, “See that river down there? Let’s use this to glide down to the river. Come, with me.”

“Yes,” I said with no hesitation.

And he smiled, shook his head from side to side, and replied, “No. Not today. Sometime in the future. It’s enough that you were so willing to do it.”

…And the dream was over.

As I started to wake, as I was in that strange state of being half in the dream world and half in the day world, I had a comforting, overwhelming sense of well-being. I felt cared for and knew I would always be cared for. And, as I was waking up, my eyes popped open and I said to myself, “That was Jesus. Why didn’t I recognize him?”

I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you why that dream has never left me. Yes, I’ve thought about what it might mean, but I’ve decided it’s not important hat I have a definitive explanation.

What is important is that the dream allowed me to encounter the resurrected Christ, the Incarnation, the Word made flesh.

The dream also gave me exactly what I needed at that time: the reassurance that I am a “lily of the field,” that I am treasured and cared for. The well being I felt was unadulterated joy. I knew . . . I knew that my redeemer lives. And I knew that it mattered to God that I live in God’s world with my eyes open and my heart in love.

There is another strange chapter to this story. My spiritual director is also a Jungian psychoanalyst: he has spent his life talking about and studying dreams. A couple of years ago, I told him about my dream, and he showed me a book written by the eminent psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It’s called The Red Book, and it’s huge and filled with handwritten script and unusual illustrations, which Jung said had come from his “active imagination.”

One is the drawing of a circle with four quadrants. In one quadrant, a person is lying on his back. In another there is a tree that has fallen down. In a third there is a cow sitting on the ground. In the last quadrant, the northeast quadrant, the quadrant where I had encountered the pilot, there is an image of Jesus hanging on the cross.

When my spiritual director showed me the illustration, neither of us knew what to say. You see, the book, although Jung drafted it 100 years ago, was not published until 2009 — eleven years after I had had the dream. Before 2009, only a dozen or so people had ever seen Jung’s original text and drawings.

I still have no idea what all this means, but I do pay a bit more attention to dreams.

The Bible details several dream stories. Jacob dreams of the Ladder; Joseph, in prison, interprets the dreams of the Pharaoh. Daniel does the same for Nebuchadnezzar; and Joseph, the husband of Mary, learns in a dream that her child is from the Holy Spirit and will be the Savior.

“What dreams may come?” Hamlet asked.

We all dream, but we do not dream alone. God is also a dreamer. God has dreams for each of us — and a dream for all of us together. God has a dream for St. Benedict.

I think we’ve done much good work to understand and join that dream as best we can. We have discovered places where God is working in the world and have seen how we can be part of those endeavors.

We give our time, our talent, and our treasure to MorningStar Mission in Joliet. We provide a home for seven Twelve Step meetings every week. Through Exodus World Service, we are reaching out to people coming to our country with nothing — arriving just as so many of our ancestors arrived. Seven years ago we founded Grace and Race just to tell our stories: to listen, to understand, to see one another.

I’m not suggesting we rest on our laurels. There’s plenty of work still to be done. In fact, if you’ve been on the fence, hesitant to plunge in, get busy. It’s time you did so.

Of course, doing God’s work is important but we also have to pay attention to developing our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. We must never forget where all good things start: with the Great Commandment, the only one that matters: Love God; love your neighbor.

Every time we say our mission statement, it asks us to reaffirm our commitment to love: “Jesus accepts all at His Table: so do we.”

We may encounter God just about anywhere. God is potentially present to us at every moment in our everyday lives — in the ordinary things we do and in the ordinary people we meet. We just need to be open to the possibilities, to expect to be surprised by epiphanies — that is, to be surprised by God showing God’s self to us.

Jesus told us that unless we receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, we will not enter it. We must be like little children, full of trust and love. Little children, open to miracle and wonder.

You and I come here on Sunday mornings to practice being open to miraculous possibilities. We hold out our hands and see Jesus in the most ordinary things: bread and wine. We see him in each other’s faces as we gather around the altar. That’s why we’re here. It’s a boot camp for learning how to see angels in the architecture.

As Jacob said after his dream, “Surely the Lord is in this place. How awesome is this place. This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

We are shaped by this place: the liturgy, the discipline, the fun, the sensuality of the incarnate way we worship God. We have assurance that God is here because God has promised to be here. This is the liminal place that prepares us to encounter God every where and every when.

In our lives, in our hearts, in our dreams.

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