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Worship Service Message

January 7, 2024
Epiphany Sunday

Epiphany: Nature and Dreams

Matthew 2:1-12

Rev. Dr. Jaegil Lee

Happy New Year!  Thank you so much for your Christmas gifts for my family and me, and for allowing me to take a vacation last week.  We were able to visit our friends in Florida.  Since 2016, when I visited my family in Korea, this was my first time traveling outside of New England and New York.  It was also my first time experiencing a 73-degree warm temperature in January. 

However, Floria was not that warm while we were there.  It was unusually cold, possibly because we brough cold water with us.  Finally, the weather warmed up the day before we left.  But the highest degree was only 73 degrees, when it could have been 79-80.  Now we have real snow here for the first time this winter.  However, don’t blame me for not bringing warm weather from Florida because it was cold there too. 

Even though Florida’s weather was nice, I am glad to be back with you.  I missed you and home.  I even dreamed of some of you at least two times during my vacation.  Usually, I don’t remember my dreams, but I remembered both of last week’s dreams about you. 

These dreams taught me how much you mean to me.  They also reminded me that I shouldn’t take your love and caring support for granted and I must show my appreciation with more commitment and an improved quality of pastoral care.  Through these dreams, God spoke to me that I need to refocus my pastoral intention and reflect that refocused intention through my actions.  I will continue to ponder their meanings and possible applications. 

While preparing for today’s sermon in Florida, I realized that today’s scripture also concerns a dream.  In the story, the Magi, or wise men, received a message in a dream “not to go back to Herod.”  If you remember, Joseph was informed of Jesus’ birth through a dream.  Later, it was also through dreams that Joseph was told to escape to Egypt from Herod’s madness, and, when Herod died, to return to Nazareth.  In the Bible, we hear many other episodes in which dreams play a role as an important medium of divine communication.

There are not many Christian academic or pastoral resources for dreams.  And pastors rarely talk about dreams.  However, it seems clear that the Bible considers dreams as a possible divine communication tool and God can speak to us through our dreams if we pay attention to them. 

Everyone dreams at night but only a few remember them.  I am one of them who rarely remembers dreams.  Nevertheless, a few weeks ago I started paying more attention to dreams, praying to God to guide me through them.  I knew that dreams could be spiritual, guiding us in important moments of our life.    

A few years ago I talked about how Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung understood dreams.  Extremely briefly, Freud thought of dreams as wish fulfilment because dreams are merely expressions of repressed past desires and drives.  On the other hand, Jung understood that dreams can function as a spiritual channel through which universal wisdom and divine information can be delivered.  Jung claimed that almost his entire psychological theory comes from his dream-like communication with a spiritual figure named Philemon. 

Edgar Cayce, whose book is used for our Thursday spiritual transformation group, also helps us better understand dreams.  Cayce’s interpretation of dreams closely echoes Jung’s.  According to Mark Thurston, a leading scholar on Edgar Cayce and professor at Atlantic University, Cayce “treated dreams as something very real—in a sense, more real than the experience of waking life because dreams provide an unadulterated, honest view of what is going on in one’s interior life” (99).  Cayce believed dreams provide valuable information for the soul's struggle and growth.  Because of this, he provided about a thousand dream interpretations, which are all scripted.

From my understanding, Cayce’s dream interpretation is more practical and advanced than even Jung’s.  For Cayce, dreams are not something to be merely figured out or interpreted, but for us to act upon.  In Thurston’s words, “dreams reveal factors that influence us and that we can act upon” (99).   The purpose of dreams is to offer new insights into our current life and way of being so we can take new action.  For Cayce, therefore, the true authentic interpretation of the dream is a practical application of the insight of dreams for the change of our current state of life.

There are five types in Cayce’s dream interpretation strategies.  But I have no desire to introduce any of them today.  Rather, I would like to share two of my most recurring dreams as examples which invite me to take action to change my way of being and doing. 

I believe most of you also have recurring dreams.  My recurring dreams are simple.  I guess they are simply because God knows I don’t remember a long dream, although I am working on it now.

One of them is that I open the hood of my car and find the engine missing.  I have this dream when my life becomes extremely busy with so many different commitments and distractions.  This dream is a wakeup call for me from busyness and overstretching with multiple commitments.  It also leads me to examine where my heart is and whether God is the center of all my actions and decisions.  It calls for a change, whether behavioral, mental, and/or spiritual.

The other recurring dream is that I have too much earwax in my ears.  In dreams, I hear the sound of earwax or attempt to remove it, usually without any success.  The way I interpret it is that it is a time for me to pay attention to divine voices or to recognize God’s signs.  I typically have this recurring dream when God leads me to make an important decision or when I am faced with an important decision.  After this dream, I usually receive a spiritual sign or hear an inner voice, which my rational mind cannot create.  So, after this recurring dream, I keep my eyes and ears open and alert more attentively. 

Do you have recurring dreams? What are they?  More importantly, what do you do with them? 

Even though I am terrible at remembering dreams, one thing I know is that if I had not paid attention to my dreams, I couldn’t have met you and my life would have unfolded along a completely different trajectory.  I believe that it is true for some, most, or all of you. 

What happens if we become more attentive to our dreams while God desires to communicate with us through them?  How can our life and way of being and doing change if we treat our dreams as a critically important divine channel?  How much can our spirituality benefit if we develop our innate capacity to listen to God through our dreams?  These are all personal questions you have to answer by yourselves, and act accordingly based on your sincere and honest answers.

Lastly, I would like to point out another important truth related to dreams.  If God speaks through dreams, as depicted in the Bible, it means that God speaks to everyone regardless of their religious/faith backgrounds because dreaming is a universal experience.  If God communicates through dreams, then it means God reveals Godself and divine truth to anyone and everyone if they are open to God.  The wise men in today’s story were most likely the priests of Zoroastrianism, an Iranian religion and one of the world’s oldest organized faiths.  Nevertheless, God communicated with them through dreams and stars.  

It is still true that God reveals Godself through dreams and nature.  We Christians cannot monopolize God and God’s truth, goodness, and beauty because God’s nature is to reveal Godself and all about who God is through all possible manners and channels always and everywhere.  Let us pray.

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