“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” –Robert F Kennedy, Jr.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week since Rich’s message about the connection of imagination and faith, and the role of faith in imagining and pursuing the dream of a world unlike the one we see every day. While I wonder if Robert Kennedy’s “faith” lay more in human potential than in the power of God at work in the people of God, I think that quote defines for me at least a choice of one of two ways to live.
Either I can look at the way things are and helplessly ask, why, and allow the world to leave me in a place of despair or cynicism.
Or I can begin to dream and imagine the reconciliation God would want to bring into a place of conflict. I could begin to dream and imagine what safety and wholeness might look like for an abused child. I can begin to imagine the dignity and hope walking home with a paycheck might bring to an unemployed worker.
Everything about our faith involves of dreaming of things that are not, and perhaps have never been. We who continually mess up in so many ways dream of full and free forgiveness, and the chances to begin life anew. We who are divided into so many subgroups begin dreaming of a community with “neither Jew nor Greek” and discover the amazing power of the cross to bring us together across our differences. We who in our most honest moments realize we are spending down a dwindling account of days dare to envision the resurrection of our bodies to life everlasting in God’s new heaven and earth.
Now I’m not into some power of positive imagination thing. It is not our imaginations that transform situations but the God with whom we trust our dreams at work through us and in our situations. And I find I must constantly offer my “imaginations” to God. Not all of these are in fact his best either for the church or the world. In Ephesians 3:20-21, Paul reminds us that what God thinks of and wants to do for the glory of Christ and his church are far more than I can ask or imagine!
Someone has suggested that the real problem of Christians is not that they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good, but rather that they are so earthly minded that they are of neither heavenly nor earthly good! It is not that we become lost in the future. Rather, we believe and imagine God’s future and can’t help bringing it into the present. We imagine the great banquet at the wedding feast of the lamb, and we stock a food pantry! We think about the beautiful garden city of the new Jerusalem and we invite people to garden on our lawn! We imagine all the nations singing the praises of God in every language, and we begin practicing in our worship services.
Matt Redman captures this in his song, “There is a Louder Shout to Come” in these lyrics:
Even now upon the earth there’s a glimpse of all to come;
Many people with one voice, harmony of many tongues.
We will all confess your name, You will be our only praise;
All the nations with one voice, all the people with one God;
And what a song we’ll sing upon that day.
I am often moved to tears as I sing this song as I imagine all that’s to come, and think of the glimpses of that I see as people with Christian imaginations bring glimpses of God’s future into the present through everyday acts of faithful obedience.
I wonder if one of the things we might do in community this week is share something that our faith has led us to imagine or dream about. Perhaps something we might do as we listen to each other is to imagine ourselves as good gardeners invited to water and nurture those dreams. What things that never were might God grow among us?