July 12, 2020
Good Morning, I wish I could see all of you, as you can see me. However, I feel we are connected spiritually.
Please join me in prayer: Holy Creator, bless us as we come together to hear your word, explore our spirituality, and seek inspiration to make this world a better place.
Considering the Scripture, you might think it was December. No, we are not doing Christmas in July. While the scripture is the same, today we are focusing not on the birth of Jesus, but on Joseph. Joseph, an ordinary man who has a dream. There are two definitions for the word dream—One, the stories the brain tells us during sleep and two, a cherished aspiration, ambition or ideal. Joseph experiences both aspects of the word dream in this bit of scripture. He has a dream during his sleep when the angel tells him to wed Mary and through that action, he embarks on the aspiration of being the father of a child who was destined to become the founder of the world’s new religion. It was not an easy choice. He had agreed to wed Mary and usually after such an agreement, the woman would stay at her parent’s home for a year, until time for the marriage. But during this waiting period, he discovers Mary is pregnant. The child isn’t his. The easy thing to do would be to bail out now. To go ahead and marry her would mean dealing with the gossips, the nay-sayers, the eye-rollers. The angel said his wife’s baby would save their people. What in the world does that means?? Would it be worth the hassle to follow the dream? Fortunately, Joseph decides to take a leap of faith and help change the world.
Fast forward to the 21st century. I want to tell you about a man who inspired me to put this message together. A man who had a dream. Meet Massimo Batturo, an Italian from the city of Modena. As a young man, he wanted to play pro soccer, but his father insisted he go to law school. About the time he graduated in 1986, he found a restaurant for sale and decided his future was in cooking. Everyone but his mother figured within 6 months he would be seeking a law job. There are many, many restaurants in Italy and he had no background in the business. No one thought he had a chance. Not only did he make the trattoria a success, but in 2016 his restaurant was rated the best in the world. There is a five month wait for a table. That makes Batturo a very accomplished man, but it’s not the dream I want to share with you. In 2015 he was asked to speak on “Feeding the Planet”. He decided it wasn’t enough to just speak on that topic. Acting on that issue would be a way to change the world. He knocked the idea around with his wife and the Pope. Imagine brainstorming your ideas with the Pope! He started a foundation, Food for the Soul. His dream was to feed the poor, while teaching people how to use the food supply more efficiently. He would provide needy people elegant three course meals made from super-market and grocery store leftovers in a warm and inspiring setting. Those restaurants are called Refettorios. The word refettorio means to restore. That first one was opened in Milan in an abandoned theater that hadn’t been used for 30 years. There was a lot of dust and cobwebs to clear out! Other great chefs from around the world joined Batturo in his efforts, as well as artists and architects to provide a fine dining experience for people off the streets. At first, the customers would hurry in, not look at anyone, gulp down their food and leave. Eventually, they learned that every time there would be excellent food, no one was rushing them off and soon they relaxed and enjoyed the dinner and conversation with friends. Today there are Refettorios in four cities around the world with more on the way. His dream has changed the way the food industry thinks about feeding the poor. Batturo argues that, “Chefs can no longer content themselves with cooking in their restaurants. They have a responsibility to the future of global food security,” On his left arm, he has a tattoo, “No more excuses” It serves to remind him and everyone who meets him about his sincerity. I saw a story about him on 60 Minutes and it ended with him saying in his Italian accent, “You canna, you canna change the world, if you don’t dream big!
The hero of our children’s book we read this morning didn’t stop dreaming big after he rode around Ghana. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah became politically active and was instrumental in the Ghanaian Parliament passing a Persons with Disabilities Rights Act. He has set up a scholarship fund for disabled children, so they can go to school. He works with a group to distribute wheelchairs. His current project is construction of a new school for all children.
The odds are an angel will not appear to us in a dream, directing us to an action that will change the world. It’s not that easy, is it? Making dreams a reality takes a lot of hard work. Joseph had to go against tradition to make Mary his wife. Massimo Batturo dealt with threatening gangs in Rio to open that Refettorio. Young Emmanuel overcame all kinds of obstacles and rejections, but never gave up. Right now, we hear of many people dreaming of helping during the pandemic. 100-year olds are walking, people are making thousands of masks, teens are mowing dozens of lawns, children are baking hundreds of cookies; all to help patients and/or first responders.
Having a dream, a BIG dream and following through on it is truly a labor of love. God’s love and support can help us enlarge our aspirations. Jesus was an agent of change. The Torah had rules about not touching the leper, those who were hemorrhaging or the dead. Jesus’ healing touch extended not only to lepers and the woman who had bled for many years, but also the Roman soldier’s daughter and Lazarus. He had big dreams about how the world must change, sending the Apostles out to share the new ideals, a plan for a better world. So, as Christians, we are mandated to follow Jesus and have dreams of helping others, thereby continuing to change the world. Sam Levinson said remember you have two hands, “The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.”
We are going through a difficult time right now. Most of us aren’t able to do a lot of the things we normally do. I don’t expect to ever eat at a restaurant buffet line again. And the Sugarloaf Craft Fair, which my family has attended for 45 years is permanently cancelled. The pandemic is enforcing a paradigm shift. Finding new ways, different activities, other paths will help us grow. Let’s not allow it to diminish who we are, what we can do, what we can dream. People who need help are everywhere. Finding ways to minister to them will energize our creative juices. We canna, we canna change the world, if we don’t dream BIG!
Lord, we need your enduring love to lead us into the post pandemic world. May your strength empower us in those humongous dreams. Amen