This is the script of this morning’s Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2 with Zoe Ball:

I don’t know about you, but I just find it impossible to read while listening to music which has lyrics. I can do it if the music is instrumental only, but I get stressed between the words on the page and the words in my ears, and lose out on both.

Unlike my kids who seem to have earphones in while doing anything … like work or study.

The other day I was trying to read Barack Obama’s new book, A Promised Land, and made the mistake of putting on Bruce Spingsteen’s new album, Letter to You. By the time I got through to the last song I gave up on the book. It was the words that got me.

One track – In My Dreams – is a beautiful song and I got distracted by remembering dreams I have had recently – especially since lockdown. I never usually remember dreams, but recently that has changed a bit, and I find it all a bit weird. Do my dreams really just replay the world as I would like it to be, or re-run things that have gone wrong in a subconscious move to put them right? I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that dreams matter. Not just the line we keep hearing these days about “follow your dreams” and all will be well. Experience tells us that not everything in life works out as we would like. Not even dreams as vague hopes or aspirations. But, dreams have a habit of getting under our skin and shaking us up a bit.

In the Bible dreams are really important. They are often the turning points in someone’s life, offering a vision of how the future might be, or warning that trouble might be on the way. They sometimes provoke a crisis which demands action once the dreamer has woken up. Or they provide a way of checking if my vision is ambitious enough.

In my dreams I hope to glimpse how I might change in the real world, loving better, living better, choosing better. Like Obama, I might be energised by a vision of a promised land.  Or, like my kids, I might one day be able to do two things at once: listen and read.

Today I am a divided man. I am at the beautiful Lee Abbey in Devon, looking out over the wild sea and thinking holy thoughts (sometimes). But the world is watching Barack Obama being inaugurated and I can’t get mobile phone reception or a broadband internet connection. There’s probably a telly somewhere, but it seems that ‘retreat’ is supposed to mean ‘retreat’. Oh well.

When I drove up the hill earlier to get a mobile signal for my phone messages I got a text message from a friend in New York who said that the churches will now be losing more worshippers as everyone there seems to be pinning all their unreasonable adulation on Obama. This isn’t the first time I have heard stuff about Obama that has made me wince with pity.

Obama comes into office in the face of unprecedented crises: two unwinnable wars, the challenge of Iran, the scandal of Gaza and Israel’s behaviour there, and the collapse of the banking system with the global plunge into economic recession. No wonder people want a saviour who will sort it all out – and Obama seems a nice, clever chap, doesn’t he.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent warnings about the search for a saviour should be heeded. There is no hero capable of sorting this lot out singlehandedly and Obama will fail on a number of counts. I hope people will be merciful to him and give him the space to fail as well as succeed. The search for a saviour always ends in tears and our memories are short when we romanticise the ‘saviours’ of the past.

Last night I was reading Nikita Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR in February 1956 in which he denounced the cult of the individual nurtured by Stalin. Stalin applied his massive and insecure ego to the elimination of millions and the attempt to portray himself as the sole saviour of the Soviet Empire. It is estimated that he was responsible for the deaths of up to 30 million people. Yet last year he was in the running for ‘top Russian’ – despite the fact that he was Georgian. People forget very easily.

This is not new. One of the reasons the Israelites of the Old Testament were required to establish annual festivals(see Deuteronomy 26, for example) was to make sure they didn’t forget their origins and their story. If they became prosperous, they would forget that they had once been slaves and might begin to treat others as such. Guess what happened.

The weight of expectation on Obama is heavy. The weight of unreasonable fantasy on his shoulders is immeasurable. We should pray for him and hs family and pray for mercy as well as strength in integrity. God bless him.