Preaching: Pastor Rebecca A. Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, September 11, 2016
Scripture Reference: Ephesians 3:16-21 (from The Message)
Sermon: Imagine the People of God: Imagination
There have been some incredible skies to look up at this summer, and take in all the stars, even some Northern Lights. There is something about looking up at the stars that not only leaves one in awe, but also begins to stir our imaginations. We start dreaming about the possibilities.
The space program is certainly evidence of how true this is. One can only begin to imagine how many astronauts had gazed into the stars when they were children dreaming of what it would be like to go into space. And so many have: shooting rockets, walking on the moon, building space stations. Now, even, there are plans and explorations of civilians being able to go into space.
Only it isn’t just those with the space program who lay under the stars and dream. Many of us have done so with our loved ones; listening to our children dream about what they want to do when they grow up; dream with our spouses or people we’re dating about what the future might hold, what we want to do as a family; even on our own we can look at the stars and get lost in dreaming about job we want, tripe we want to take, things we want to do in our lives. The stars truly have a way of inspiring and drawing out, our gift of imagination, or ability to dream and see endless possibilities.
Our imaginations are one of the significant ways in which we are made in the image of God. From the very beginning of our Bible we learn that God has an imagination. God created all that we see and could dream of all the possibilities: leaves that are curved and rounded on the edge, leaves that are thin and pointy, jagged leaves, leaves that are big and round to look like animal ears. But then there is also the platypus, zebra, anteater, gray whale to name just a few of the creatures God created. But God also saw the possibilities for us as humans. God had dreams of how we would relate to one another and how we would relate to all parts of creation. Yes, God could see the possibilities; each day God could imagine more and each day God did more.
That’s the thing about our dreams, our imagination – they motivate us. They help to give us direction and name what we want to do. They keep us moving forward, progressing. That’s why we read in Proverbs, “A people without vision will perish.” Our imagination helps us see and name who we want to be, what we want to do, whether it is newlyweds saying what they dream their life will be like in 5 years, students dreaming about what they will be doing after school, individuals dreaming about what they will do in retirement, or churches dreaming about ministries and people they can reach.
Only what we also know from the creation stories is that we don’t always live into the dreams God has for us. We often fail to fully live into our created identity. Perhaps that is the truth being raised for us in our reading from Ephesians: as a people of God we fail to follow our dreams. We halt our imaginations on what could be, who we could be. Instead we are very good at seeing the limitations. We are quick to say it is impossible. We are a lot like Abraham and Sarah who looked at all the stars, heard God dream of all the descendants they would have, and then laugh because it seems impossible. We lack the fail that anything is possible with God.
I think Paul is challenging us to remember who we are, to remember we are made in the image of the Creator, who dreamed and created out of nothing. Paul is daring us to put our imaginations to the test, to see the endless possibilities. That’s what I love about this translation. Paul is asking if we are firmly grounded, firmly standing on God’s love that we not only imagine the possibilities, but we follow our dreams. He says, “Reach out an experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!” God can do even greater things than what we can dream so why not go for it? Unless we don’t believe. As a people of God we are called to dream, to imagine even what seems impossible, for God can do anything.
I think as a church we’ve begun to do that in many ways. For me, one of the biggest signs of that is the Our Kids backpack program. Who would think that a little church like ours, in a small community, could feed over 100 hungry children every weekend for a year? And yet, we have. With so many people coming together we have sustained and grown this ministry for three years so that we now feed over 200 children.
Or then there is the witness of Hannah Foust, a 13 years old youth from Indiana that we heard at Youth 2015. She learned of the poverty in Burkina Faso in Africa where 1 in 3 children die before they are 5 because they lack clean water. Girls would travel 7 miles to get water that was so dirty it looked like chocolate milk. Hannah dreamed things could be different. Rather than being afraid of the challenge or the problems in Africa, Hannah trusted God was leading her to do something. She started doing more yard work, housework, babysitting, talking to thousands at General Conference and Youth 2015, all in an effort to build wells. Not only has she herself paid for three wells, but she has inspired others so that an additional 13 wells have been built. She dreamed something could be done, that the church could come together to change the world, and she is making it happen.
Sometimes the dreams are for our relationships where there is brokenness and hurt. We have dreams of marriages healing and getting stronger. It is one of the challenges from the book, Love Dare, guiding couples that are struggling in their marriage, ready to call it quits. This book echoes the challenge of Paul saying, “Put love to the test,” as it offers guidance on how couples can practice unconditional love.
My own aunt and uncle found themselves in a horrible place such that they not only separated, but divorced. Only over time they put love to the test. They kept working at their relationships, building trust again, forgiving one another, so that a few years later they remarried and went on to live the rest of their lives together.
As a people of God we were made to dream, to imagine all the possibilities for our personal lives, for our church, for our community and world. Our dreams help to define and shape us, as long as we don’t focus on the challenges. Rather, when we have faith, when we are fully grounded in God’s love, then we put that love to the test and discover for ourselves anything is possible for God, even the things in our wildest imaginations. Glory to God! Amen.