“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts 2:17, Peter quoting from the prophet Joel.
Visions and dreams. The young shall be given visions; the old, dreams. Is this simply a poetic and inclusive way of saying the same thing? Perhaps; but I don’t think so. Here’s my response to the Spirit’s voice:
A vision is something God gives us, to do. Something we could not accomplish in our own strength, but with God enlivening us, something we will see come to pass in our lifetime. Our leg of the relay; our part to play; our call to own.
A dream is something God gives us, that is not ours to do, but ours to point to. Something we will not see with our own eyes; hope that extends beyond our lifetime; that reminds us that we are not the be-all-and-end-all of the matter; that reassures us that it doesn’t all depend on us. Martin Luther King said “I have a dream”: and in as much as that the current President of the United States embodies the coming-together of previously segregated people, some of those who marched with Dr King saw a partial fulfilment of his dream.
For lack of vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 5:13; Hosea 4:6). Without vision, we merely exist, lacking direction and purpose.
But vision alone is not enough. Without dreams, the people perish within a generation. Because our dreams sow the visions of those who come after us...
All of us are only getting older. Pentecost is as good a time as any to look back, to take stock of the visions God has given us, to celebrate where we have seen those visions – for our family, our workplace, our neighbourhood, our city, our world; whatever those visions pertain to – come to fruition; and to renew our trust that God is Sovereign and faithful where we have not seen vision come to pass, where we must recognise that in creating a world with free will, God’s plans do not necessarily run as smoothly as he might choose and certainly less smoothly than we might choose – God is working to a long arc.
All of us are only getting older. Pentecost is as good a time as any to look forward, to ask God to give us dreams, increasingly as we age, in order that we might sow the seeds of vision for those who come after us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if many years from now, when we are long gone, an old man might testify to something God has brought about in the midst of his people and say, I remember, when I was a boy, an old lady – as I come to think of it now, she probably wasn’t so very old, but I was a child, and she seemed old to me at the time – told me that this would come to pass, not in her time but in mine...?