Thursday, March 17, 2016

Imagine Something New

A chapel service, exploring my theology of hope, for my residency program.

Opening Song:  Theme song from “Reading Rainbow


God who promises through the prophets to take us to new heights, to lead us to new places, to make us a new people, be in this place today.  Open our hearts and our minds to the new things you are asking us to do with you.  Guide us as we seek to be co-creators of the new things you wish to accomplish in our world today and everyday.  Amen.


Exodus 2:23, 3:7-8a
During that long period, the king of Egypt died.  The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  The Lord said [to Moses], “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Hosea 2:15
There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor (which means “trouble”) a door of hope.  There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

Song:  “Light” from the Broadway musical Next to Normal

Homily – Imagine Something New

Hope is the joyful anticipation of an expected outcome.  To speak of hope is to speak of joy, anticipation, and expectation.  The power of hope is found in the imagination.

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they toiled under slave drivers making bricks for their masters.  They were under threat of death every single day.  Fearing that the Israelites would grow strong, Pharaoh commanded the Egyptians to kill all male babies born to the Israelites, sparing only the female infants.  Moses’s mother placed him in a basket among the reeds in the Nile and dared to hope a different future for her son; while many despaired, she dared to imagine a life for Moses.

Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh, taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter.  When, as a grown man, he witnessed an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave, Moses slayed the Egyptian and then went into hiding for he feared he would be killed himself.  The Israelites as a people lived in despair that this would be their lot forever.

Hopeless or despair is the fearful belief that the current circumstances will never change – there is no expected outcome.  This, what we have in the now, is all there is, all there will ever be.  Despair is the antithesis of life – it speaks of stagnation rather than dynamism, growth, or change.

But then Pharaoh died.  Suddenly there was space in which things could change.  The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out. They needed a future that was different from the life before them and the death of Pharaoh opened space to imagine something different.  They saw the possibility of something new. 

God answered their cry and called Moses.  God gave Moses a new vision.   God declared to Moses that the Israelites would be rescued from the hand of the Egyptians and they would be brought up out of that land.  God gave Moses an image of a land that is good and spacious, flowing with milk and honey.  Moses dared to hope that this new vision of life he imagined for his people might be true.

Experiencing hope requires that we develop the ability to imagine something different.  Hope does not suggest, with empty platitudes and simplistic answers, that we can change everything we dislike about our current situation.  Rather, hope calls us to find new ways to look toward the future – to imagine an outcome different from our current circumstances, and to anticipate that outcome with joy.

Some years ago, I asked a dear friend, who is an atheist, how it can be that someone like me exists.  How is it that I could defy all the odds and create a life radically different from my past, radically different from what I had been taught to expect in life?  “You have faith,” he told me simply.  Faith, Paul tells us, is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.  Before I had faith, I had hope.  I dared to imagine that something different was possible.

God declared that when the Israelites left their worship of other gods and became faithful once more, God would give her back her vineyards and make the Valley of trouble a door of hope.  Hope to imagine something new.  Hope to imagine what can be.  Hope to imagine that there is a way out of the valley of trouble.

Imagination is our greatest weapon against despair. In the empty spaces, in the in between places, we can begin to imagine something different from where we are now.  Imagination has the potential to move us from the darkness of despair into the light of hope for a new tomorrow.  We have the power, with God, to co-create something different.  The power of hope is found in the imagination.

Closing Song:  "Imagine" by John Lennon

Passing of the Peace

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