Holy Imaginations

As young children, my sister and I often imagined that we were all grown up with professional careers. She most often was the teacher and I the student. Then I would be the preacher and she the music leader. We literally spent hours playing into the very roles that eventually became our life-time career choices.

I also remember hearing cautions about the use of our imaginations. They called this “make believe” and somehow that always sounded like a negative comment. “Make believe” is apparently just our own desires given voice.

But when I read the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, and verses like Philippians 4:8 (Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things) I realize that God does use our imaginations to create an alternate story in the world.

Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament scholar, offers some helpful insights. He suggests that to ‘imagine’ is to receive, entertain, and host images of reality that are outside the accepted norm. And from whom do we receive the imaginings? It is the Holy Spirit that gives us eyes to see and selves to notice the repeated and constant faithfulness of God. It is the Spirit who moves in the life of the community to prompt ideas and put together practices in new and life-giving ways for the good of our common life.

Take for example what happened in March 2020. When we were no longer allowed to worship together in the church sanctuary, the technical gurus in our church crafted a way of recording the worship services and putting them on YouTube so that many more folks had access to it. And when the loneliness got too great, the worship ministry folks set up Zoom conversations so that we could check in on each other’s lives. We still frequently use Zoom to bring people confined to their homes into group conversations. These new ways of being together could not have happened if imaginations had not been host to new ideas.

We are, after all, followers of Jesus Christ. And because we are followers, there are new ways already available for us to live into. It is being birthed in the wonder of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a world marked by the stable smell of shepherds and the perfumes of the wise men. It is a world marked by a Friday of suffering and death and by a Sunday of surprise and new life.

This new world into which we are invited, is accessible through our imaginings, prompted by the Jesus story. We are a Christian community are set down into a world where violence and force are common. But we refuse to participate in the anxiety of the world because we imitate birds of the air and lilies of the field who are confident that the Father in heaven knows our needs and responds to them. This alternate story reveals the contradictions of our present life and imagines our life differently.

The invitation to us is to open ourselves to what God desires to do in and through our lives. We recognize that in order to hear God more clearly, we will need to give up our own white knuckled grip on treasured ideas and actions. This will not necessarily be painless either. Remember the cross! But we are confident that God holds the future and when we engage our holy imaginations, we will be the change God desires to see.       [CLAIRE]