EXPANDING OUR HORIZONS

ZECHARIAH 2:1-5 

 

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            Have you ever awakened from a vivid dream, told someone about it, and tried to figure out what it meant?  Scientists tell us we all dream, but these dreams are not always remembered.  Personally, I don’t remember many of my dreams, but every now and again I do, and when I remember a dream it is usually a doozy.

            Well, we might think of Zechariah as “the dreamy prophet.”  Turn with me to page  769 of your pew bible, to chapter one, verse 7 ...

 

            On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat in the second year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo; and Zechariah said, “In the night I saw a man riding a red horse ...”

 

            And from this point on he proceeds to describe eight dreams or visions he had on the night of February 15, 519 B.C., and in just a moment we will focus our attention on the third dream he had that night, but before we do, let me say something about the historical context.

            Zechariah and Haggai, the prophet we got to know two Sundays ago, were contemporaries.  Therefore, what was true of Haggai’s historical situation was true of Zechariah’s historical situation.  Zechariah’s dreamy prophecy comes one year after Haggai’s prophecy, and sixty-eight years after the people of Jerusalem had been taken into captivity by those Babylonian Bullies.  The Babylonians ransacked the city, burned down the Temple, and on the way out of town knocked down the city’s protective walls.  It was not unlike that scene in the movie Gone With the Wind, where Sherman burns down Atlanta.  But after forty years of Babylonian captivity, the Persians conquered the Babylonians and the conquering Persian king immediately signed an edict allowing the citizens of Jerusalem to return home, and many did.

            Now twenty years have passed since the people have returned home, and as a result of Haggai’s cajoling the people of Jerusalem are busy rebuilding the Temple, and during the reconstruction of the Temple, Zechariah has a series of eight visions or dreams.  Maybe he had a hot fudge sundae or some onion rings just before going to bed and he dreamed all these things.  We don’t know, but we do know an angel visited him in those dreams, and the angel served as a tour guide through these visions, not unlike the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in Dicken’s Christmas Carol.

            OK, the stage is set and we are ready to read Zechariah’s third vision, chapter two, verse one. 

 

            I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand.  Then I asked, “Where are you going?”  He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.”

 

            Similar to Haggai, Zechariah’s primary calling was to encourage the citizens of Jerusalem to rebuild, but in this case it has to do with the city itself and not just the Temple.  His third vision involves a young man measuring Jerusalem so that it could be rebuilt according to the old measurements of the city before the Babylonians destroyed it.

            Now, listen to what follows.  It’s the punchline for the entire book of Zechariah.

 

            Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him, and said to him, “Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem will be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it.  For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it.

 

            In other words, one angel commands another angel saying, “Run and tell that young man to ‘super-size’ the city.”  While the man measures the city an angel puts on track shoes, sprints over to him and says, “Hold on!  Time out!  You’re making it too small!  God has something grander in mind.  In fact, it’s so grand your measurements won’t be able to contain it.  It’s bigger than you can imagine.  If you attempt to fit God’s plan within your measurements, you are going to have a mess on your hands.  All the people and livestock won’t fit.  You’ll have a sewage problem to end all sewage problems.”

            And that’s the message of Zechariah.  “God has something grand in store for you.  It’s going to be more spectacular than you can imagine.”

            Do you remember the story of the little boy who lived far back in the country, way out in the sticks at the turn of the 20th century?  This boy had reached the age of ten and had never, in all his life, seen a circus.  Therefore, you can imagine his excitement when a poster went up at school announcing that on the next Saturday a traveling circus was coming to a nearby town.  He ran home with the news and asked his father, “Can I go?”

            The family was poor, but the father sensed how important this was to the boy, so he said, “If you do your Saturday chores ahead of time, I’ll see to it that you have the money to go.”

            As we would expect, come Saturday the chores were done and the boy stood dressed in his Sunday best.  His father reached into his overalls and pulled out a dollar bill, the most money the boy had ever seen at one time in his life.  The father cautioned him to be careful and then sent him on his way to the circus. 

            The boy was so excited his feet hardly touched the ground.  As he got to the outskirts of town, he noticed people lining the streets, and he worked through the crowd until he could see what was coming.  And there, lo and behold, in the distance approached the spectacle of a circus parade!  It was the grandest thing the boy had ever beheld.  There were animals in cages, and bands, and sword swallowers, and finally, bringing up the rear came the circus clowns with floppy shoes and baggy pants and brightly painted faces and as the clowns passed where he was standing, the little boy reached in his pocket and got out that precious dollar bill and handed it to a clown, and he turned around and went home.

            What happened?  The boy thought he had seen the circus when he had only seen the parade!  And in a way that captures what the angel said to the man with the measuring stick.  The angel said, “Don’t settle for this.  Make it bigger.  Bigger.”  And through the ages comes this counsel: “Don’t settle for this.  Don’t settle for the parade and miss the circus.  Dream big.  Dream big.”

            Two questions.  Number one: What are we attempting, individually and as a church, that only the Holy Spirit can accomplish?  And number two: If we are not experiencing Christ as we would like could the reason be we are not attempting anything that requires Christ’s presence and power?  Someone once remarked, “If the Holy Spirit left the church 95% of the church’s activities would continue as usual.”  Is that true of us?  Are we getting by on our own power?  Are we settling for the parade and missing the circus?

            If so, I offer three words this morning - Sigh - Fly - Try.  Let’s take them one at a time.  To dream big we need to take a deep breath, a sigh if you will, because dreaming takes courage.  It is racked with dangers and roadblocks.

            I think of Knox Overstreet in the movie Dead Poets Society.  Robin Williams character, John Keating, takes a group of uptight, regimented students at a rigid boarding school and inspires them to “Carpe Diem” - “Seize the day.”  Knox Overstreet decides to do just that with a gorgeous girl upon whom he has a terminal crush.  With Mr. Keating’s advice ringing in his ears, he decides to “seize the day.”  He takes a deep breath and boldly walks up to her and poetically declares his love for her.  Unfortunately, she turns him away, and her boyfriend punches him in the nose.  Knox, however, is unwilling to forsake the dream so he continues to pursue his heart’s desire.  Finally, she feels the genuineness of his feelings and opens her heart to him, and he wins over the girl.

            Of course, that was Hollywood and the story turned out well in the end, but sometimes it does not.  Sometimes the dreams do not come try, but at the end of our lives, if we’ve taken a number of deep breaths and tried, that will be better than never trying at all. 

            The second word is “fly.”  In this regard I think of the young flying student who went for his first solo flight and his plane crashed in his father’s vegetable garden of all places.  Needless to say, the father was alarmed.  He was alarmed on two accounts.  His garden was in shambles and he wasn’t too sure about this son’s condition, and we are not sure which alarmed him most, his garden or his son!

            Well, after he discovered his son was fine, he asked him, “What happened?”

            The son replied, “Dad, I was flying too low.”

            Many of are are flying too low, and that’s why our Christian lives may be a wreck.  I encourage us to fly, and to fly high.

            By the way, I wonder what God will say to us during this eighteen month discernment process we have undertaken?  When the eighteen month “Invitation to a Journey” process concludes what do you think God will say to us?  Will he say, “You’ve had an incredible 120 year run.  Time to close up shop?”  Will God say, “Just keep doing  what you have been doing.  Build the church to the same measurements, just like the city in Jerusalem?”  Or will God say, “I have something big in store for you, so big if we do this together we will fly high.  We will touch the heavens?”  I wonder what God will say to us at the end of our Journey process?

            The last word is “try.”  Give it your best shot.  And if at first we don’t succeed, well you know the saying.

            Over a century ago someone proposed a bridge across Niagara.  Great idea.  It would save miles and miles of travel, but how would they begin?  The canyon walls were too steep and the rapids too wild to get that first strand across from cliff to cliff.  Do you remember how they did it?  In 1848 a young boy, Homan Walsh, flew his kite across the chasm.  With that string in place, they attached a thicker string and pulled the thicker string across.  And then, they attached a slender cable to that thicker string and pulled that across.  And then they attached a stronger cable to the slender one and in turn the construction was accomplished.  The great suspension bridge was started by a single kite string!

            God will use slender strings to accomplish great things.  We only need to try.

            Sigh.  Fly.  Try.

            Let me close with this.  In a response from a Yale University management professor to one of his students who had proposed an overnight delivery service, the professor wrote on the student’s paper, “The concept is interesting and well-informed, but in order to earn better than a “C,” the idea must be feasible.”

            The student’s name?  Fred Smith.  The company Fred Smith created with his “C” paper?  Federal Express.

            God says, “If you want to get better than a “C” in life make sure your plan is not feasible.  Make it humanly impossible to pull off without divine intervention and discover what I’ve been waiting to give you your entire life.”

            Let’s not, individually or as a church, settle for the parade and miss the circus.  Amen.