“Imagine That”

“Imagine That”

Pentecost 5 (NL3) John B. Valentine
Summer Sermon Series: 1 John 3:1-10 June 27, 2021


So a couple of our grandkids ... Nathan and Alexander ... were up visiting all week ... enjoying some Grammie and Grandpa time while on summer vacation.

• We played some games ....
• We did some puzzles ...
• We went to the park.

• They made cookies with Grandma ...
• And robots with Grandpa ...
• And mayhem with Uncle Nick and Uncle Matt.

It was just awesome .... and ... as a bonus ... I got a crash refresher course in the joys of childhood!

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Anyhow ... ONE of the things which I was thoroughly reminded of this week was the power of imagination.

• Give those little guys a couple of cardboard boxes and some tape and some markers .... and they become the engineers of a mechanical monster that can disarm all enemies.

• Give them a pile of pillows and blankets ... and they can create an impregnable fortress.

• Give them a couple of wimpy plastic shovels ... and they believe they can completely excavate the backyard.

After all ... ALL things are possible when you are three or four years old and you have Grammie and Grandpa on your side!

But a psychologist would say that what looks like simple fun to us is ... to them ... actually vitally important work in their development.

• They were learning how to solve problems ....

• They were learning how to create new possibilities ...

• They were developing a level of confidence that they can change the world ...

• In short ... they were developing healthy imaginations.

You see ...

• Imagination is all about transcending the limits of the present physical world and the limits of a one’s inner world ...

• Imagination is all about opening up new ways of seeing and new ways of being ...

• Imagination is all about NOT being defined by what the world ‘out there’ tells us is ... and is not ... possible.

And that’s a good thing.

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But you notice how it is that ... somewhere along the line ... imagination begins to become less important and knowledge tends to become more important??

We go to school ... we grow up ... we get older ... we have more life experiences ... and we become more focused on what IS and less concerned about what COULD BE.

Now don’t get me wrong ... education is great ... education provides us with amazing tools to navigate this world in which we live ... but somehow we seem to let our education and our knowledge impose limits on our imaginations and our capacity to think outside the box.

I mean ... I trust you’ve all heard of a fellow named Albert Einstein ... that early 20th century physicist whom many people would consider to be the personification of the pursuit of knowledge???

Einstein once noted that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world … Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”

It's not that knowledge is unimportant ... but knowledge without imagination is a recipe for complacency ... and for just codifying the status quo.

Knowledge without imagination means taking our marching orders from someone else.

Knowledge without imagination means for settling for what already is.

Then again ... listen to something that Pablo Picasso once said:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I LOVE that!

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

You see ... what Picasso is referring to is a loss of imagination.

Imagination is the force that trespasses on the impossible.

For my grandkids ... and I suspect for children in general ... imagining is an easy task.

But ... as we age ... our imagination ... at least many of our imaginations ... go unused ... neglected ... untended ... maybe even dormant.

Our imaginations just dry up.

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Now I might be wrong ... but it strikes me that there’s something of a connection between the art of imagination and this week’s Scripture lesson..

You see ... all through that lesson ... the writer of that lesson ... that lesson ... that sermon ... keeps referring to his audience as kids ..... LITTLE kids!

• We should be called ‘children of God’.

• We are God’s children now.

• Little children let no one deceive you.

Stuff like that!

And I can’t help but think that those words are ... at least in part ... an invitation for them to cultivate a childlike imagination of the kind of life God has made possible for them in Jesus Christ.

You see ... that text begins with the assertion that we ARE God’s beloved kids.

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that IS what we are.”

But it doesn’t stop there.

We aren’t merely God’s children now ... John goes on to say ... we are to imagine something more.

“What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

God’s kids are invited to imagine that ... somehow ... they can and will become like Jesus ... that WE can and will become like Jesus ... the perfect image of God!

Now ... I’ve got to tell you ... there’s something about that line of thinking that goes against everything that my logical, rational, reasonable self wants to embrace ... but there’s a huge challenge for us in there.

The children of God are to imagine themselves in the person of Jesus Christ and act accordingly!

In the same manner in which our grandkids could clip a couple of bath towels around their necks and instantly imagine that they had been transformed into superheroes ...

So we ... God’s kids ... are to put on Christ and be transformed into a force for good in this world.

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I don’t know how many of you remember ... seven or eight years ago now ... a fellow named Matt Zeller came to speak with us about a project he’d started called “No One Left Behind”.

You see ... Lieutenant Zeller was a combat veteran was serving in Afghanistan when his patrol was ambushed by the Taliban ... and his life had been saved due to the heroism of his native Afghani interpreter ... a fellow named Janis.

But it came to pass ... after Lieutenant Zeller returned stateside ... that Janis and his family began receiving death threats from the Taliban ... and with noone else to turn to ... Janis reached out to the man whose life he’d saved to help him get to safety ... and ... three years later ... Janis, his wife and his two young children were able to emigrate to the US.

But now here’s where Matt’s imagination came into play.

Rather than just settling for what was ... Matt began imagining what could be ... figuring out a way to get some more of those eighteen thousand Afghani interpreters who’d supported US efforts in their homeland to safety in this country.

And thus he started “No One Left Behind” ... the only national organization dedicated to helping those military interpreters obtain the Special Immigrant Visas that were promised to them years before.

And ... to date ... No One Left Behind has facilitated the transition of nearly two thousand of those native interpreters to safety here in the US.

And has received the support of governmental figures no less diverse that former Vice President Mike Pence and Representatives Ilhan Omar and Adam Kinzinger!

All because then-Lieutenant Zeller followed the lead of holy imagination and found himself asking “Why not?” rather than simply settling for an answer to the question “Why?”

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Folks ... it’s not that imagination alone is going to get us anywhere ...

And imagination unchecked by reality may well get us into the realm of this, that and the other conspiracy theory ... where none of us ought dare go.

But we DO need to leave room for imagination in our lives.

• Imagining a future that doesn’t look like the past.

• Visualizing that which is not visual.

• Seeing that which is unseeable.

For when we develop a healthy, faithful imagination ...

We can begin to see people and things the way God sees them.

• To see others as people to be loved ... not as enemies to be feared.

• To see our weary bodies as temples of the living God.

• To see this collection of misfits we call Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church as part of the Body of Christ and the Family of God.

• To see the future in the present.

• To see the possibility amid the pain.

• To see God at work in our lives and our living.

May God stir up the gift of imagination in each of us ... that we might be called ‘children of God’!

“Imagine That” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on Sunday, June 27, 2021, in conjunction with our worship service for the 5th Sunday of Pentecost.  The text upon which it is based is 1 John 3:1-10.  To access a copy of the worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order.20210627.print