No less of a thinker than Albert Einstein said,
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.Regardless of one’s profession of daily routine, imagination is at the heart of innovation, creativity, and improvement.
An inventor imagines a machine that will accomplish a familiar job at half the cost and twice the speed. An ad exec imagines a campaign that will help her client reach previously untapped markets.
A musician sits at a silent piano and imagines a symphony in his mind.
An athlete imagines how a play will unfold so that she’ll be prepared to be in the right place ay just the right time.
It doesn’t matter if you work on Wall Street or Main Street, John Street or Broadway, imagination is vital. Imagination can change a point of view or landscape. Imagination can change the world.
Imagination helps children develop. It helps the troubled soul pursue a new and better say of being. Imagination shines the light of justice into an unjust situation. Imagination is a revolutionary force within each and every one of us.
You see, we’re not talking about some flight of fancy here. We’re talking about the ability to press beyond the limited thinking of “the way things are” and “the ways things have always been” in order to experience life more deeply.
Is it any wonder, then, why some people are so threatened by imagination?
Dictators and tyrants always try to control what their people are thinking, lest the tenuousness of their grip on power be exposed.
False prophets and charlatans always aim to suppress thoughts and ideas that aren’t their own.
Even in our time and place, there are countless voices and forces of the status quo determined to keep us from engaging questions and concerns with a creative and imaginative spirit.
What’s so interesting about our circumstances, however, is that they perfectly prepare us to hear Good News in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians.
There were forces that wanted to keep the Colossians in line, too, the brutal and seductive powers of the Roman Empire.
Historians remind us that Rome’s objective was very clear—hold on to power through any means necessary. Bribe the people, entertain the people, crush the people, or destroy the people—Rome’s intentions were clear. Limit the options available to the people so severely, that all choices benefited the Empire.
Think of it like living your life in a casino. You might have some good moments, but, in the end, the House always wins.
A powerful Empire intends to create an environment in which it ultimately benefits from all acceptable choices.
A spirit, a vision, a savior had taken hold of Paul, however, that just wouldn’t let him accept that Rome’s approved options were the only options available to him. Paul knew that there was another power at work in the world, the Power in whom the hopes and dreams of all people rests.
Colossians is a meditation on that Power.
Listen, again, to this passage from the letter’s opening verses that we read in worship a few weeks ago.
Recalling the moment he learned that the Gospel of Jesus Christ had reached the Colossians, Paul wrote,
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.The implication is that the new believers could expect the forces of wickedness to challenge their budding faith and to tempt them to go astray.
In light of this, Paul continued,
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.Paul wanted the people who were living in the shadow of Rome to imagine another way of living rather than the one being pushed upon them from every direction.
There was another way to find peace rather than simply crushing your enemies.
There was another way to have a good life rather than exploiting your neighbors.
There was a real God whose image you wouldn’t be forced to worship, but in whose image you were truly created.
For in [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.In the face of an imposing, seductive, violent power our spiritual ancestors had the courage and faith to see an ever greater power at work in the world and reigning in their hearts, a power that set them free—free from the bondage of imagination stomping oppression—free to realize that with God’s help, the way it was not the way it had to be. Those first Christians could imagine a community in which old barriers of race and ethnicity and economics came tumbling down, a community where people cared for one another, a community committed to justice and reconciliation.
They also had the courage to take concrete steps toward making that image their reality.
Today, you and I come together as the heirs to the promise of the community called Church that they built so long ago to build our lives on the same foundation of God’s grace.
Like them, we need to hear the Gospel of God’s love and power made known in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Like them, we need the God-given imagination to envision relationships and communities and a world in which, as we pray every Sunday, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
And like faithful disciples in every age, we need courage and creativity to step out of line and into the light, to love other as God loves us, to see the world through Jesus’ eyes, that we might be for the world his kind hands—“for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
And that is why we call the Gospel he gave us to share, Good News for all people.
Thanks be to God for this Good News. Amen.