Prison Break

I sometimes have a recurring dream. It usually comes back to me when I’m feeling pressure or anxiety about something that I have to do. Maybe I’m facing a deadline, or I’m feeling overwhelmed so I’m not feeling up to the task at hand. There are different variations, but all of them share a couple of elements.

First, I have somewhere that I’m supposed to be. When I was in college and graduate school, I was supposed to be taking an exam somewhere. But now I often feel like I’m supposed to be preaching. And, usually I’m somehow aware that the audience/congregation is waiting for me. The last song has been sung. The songleader has told the audience, “You may be seated.” And now there is this awkward silence punctuated by the occasional cough or squeal of a child. People are looking around and wondering where I am, some in amusement, others in anger.

Second, for whatever reason, I can’t get there. It’s often because I keep finding myself distracted by other, urgent tasks. A person runs up and begins talking to me. I can’t find my notes. Sometimes I simply can’t find the place where I’m supposed to be speaking.

And that right there is the entire dream. I spend who knows how long trying to get this place where I’m supposed to be so that I can perform this task that I’m supposed to perform. And all the while I am completely in capable of making it. I can’t believe I don’t kick my poor wife senseless just running in place lying down. Finally, as I wake up my panic is washed away in flood of relief as I realize that it was just a dream.

Of all the dreams, though, the worst ones are the ones where I am physically slowed down somehow. I know I need to hurry, but I can’t. It’s like I’m walking in molasses, or it’s like I’ve been drugged. Sometimes I’ll be unable to open my eyes properly. These dreams are maddening. As the feeling of panic rises, my inability to make my body work increases. I HATE having these dreams. I feel so trapped.

But what would it be like if, in the midst of that dream, I were to find myself able to move quickly? What if my arms and legs were suddenly infused with energy? What if my eyes were suddenly wide open and I could see everything clearly? What a liberating ending that would be to my dream.

I would hope that these dreams are the closest I will ever come to being imprisoned. But I do know this—whenever I wake up, I feel truly free. I feel as if someone has just sprung me from jail.

Maybe your life feels that way today. Maybe you are somehow feeling trapped. Trapped by decisions you have made, trapped by bad things that have happened to you, trapped by weaknesses that you have. Maybe you have somewhere you would like to go or something you would like to be, but you feel like you can’t get there.

The good news for this morning is Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4. Jesus has been sent to “proclaim freedom for the prisoner” and to “release the oppressed.” Jesus can set us free. We’ll talk about it this morning.