Sacred Soil

Can you imagine?
May 28, 2019, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Sermons

Blog Image ImagineI’m fairly terrible at managing the more magical side of parenting. You know, the fairies and elves, pixies and bunnies… Certainly, many of these childhood enchantments appear in our lives, but they’re pretty disorganized. We’ve decided the tooth fairy needs a personal secretary, and the Easter bunny needs a better map, and there aren’t enough shelves for that elf.

But I do believe there is a tremendous beauty in a child’s imagination—the way they can see a world right alongside our own and be filled with wonder and amazement. Kids have the power to understand that a wardrobe can be a portal to another dimension; that platform 9 and ¾ has always been there, right through that pillar. It is wonderful fun to slip into these magical realms, imagining a reality that seems to defy the natural order of the world, existing right next to the world we think we know so well.

Indeed, there is great wisdom in a child’s imagination. And, I think we need quite a bit more of it.

In our gospel text today, we’ve jumped back to Jesus’ final speech to the disciples–to the moments where he’s preparing them for what is to come—but they can’t possibly understand. They’re all sitting around, having dinner, like you do when you’re a disciple… and then Jesus starts talking about love and peace, and how he’s giving it to them. But not like the world gives.

And it wouldn’t surprise me if the disciples turn to each other and nod, trying to pretend they get it. But they don’t. Because in that moment, they had no imagination. No way to understand what Jesus was talking about.

Who is this advocate that Jesus is sending? Where is he actually going? Haven’t we just arrived?

Because, remember, at this point the disciples still think they’re in Jerusalem to unseat Rome, that they’re going to take over the government.

They couldn’t see that their logic was simply magical thinking—and that Jesus was inviting them to see a world that already exists. But they couldn’t—because it was beyond their imagining.

We are so often much like these disciples: bent on the pragmatic. Things that make sense by our way of seeing it. If we’re interested in overthrowing Roman authority, we devise a plan. Amass an army. We don’t sit around a table washing feet, drinking wine, and listening to weird speeches.

Jesus knew they weren’t going to get it in that moment. He knew these folks well. He knew that this little speech wasn’t going to make sense until later—until the veil fell and they could finally see all that had been hidden from them. These words were for a later moment.

They had to wait, simmer in them until they could see that God’s reign was all around them, that the peace of Christ already permeates everything. The words had to wait until the empty tomb made sense of them.

This is actually the thing I really appreciate about the book of Revelation—in our current readings of it, we so often think of it as a book about the future. But, in fact, it is about revealing God’s presence now. It is about opening the wardrobe, slipping onto platform 9 and ¾. It is about seeing the truth is already here with new eyes.

And that truth—it is that God loves us. It is that we’re invited to a peace beyond our understanding. That we are not defined by this world of fighting and getting what’s ours. It is the promise of God’s healing love that extends to all the earth–like a grand tree with fruit that never gives up. Never.

And that love and peace—God’s love and peace—they’re not defined by us and our logic or our grand plans. Because ours is a God that wrestles with us, challenges us, and reveals a beauty far beyond what we could ever create ourselves.

There are moments we glimpse this peace, know this love. There are places where the veil is lifted. Where we see things as they are—in ways we’d never thought possible.

I count among those the ways in which our culture has opened to gay and lesbian folks. Things are by no means perfect—there are still many places where someone like me is considered really scary. But, I can attest that in the 20+ years since I’ve come out, our culture has seen a dramatic shift. An unveiling, if you will.

It used to be that folks thought being gay resigned a person to a life of despair and hopelessness. And of course, we wanted to keep people from experiencing that, to keep people from knowing that kind of pain. And so, the math was done, and it was only logical that we name being gay as bad.

That is until some folks stepped up and began to remove the veil and offer a new way of seeing things. Perhaps, they suggested, the problem isn’t that being gay causes despair and hopelessness. Perhaps, instead, it is how we treat gay folks that causes the problem. What if we welcomed folks? What if we celebrated this love? What if we recognized the peace of Christ at work in us—all of us–inviting us into a world defined by the love of God. And not our limited imagination.

And as more and more people came out, and more and more people realized the power of kindness and welcome, and love. And things changed. Dramatically. And I can say with certainty, my life is not a life of despair and hopelessness. I rather like my life. My family, my community. This church. And it is because we have all, together, decided to live by the peace of Christ, the love of God.

But there are many veils still out there. Many places where we get so sucked into defining the world by despair and hopelessness—rather than seeing the love of God. Where we think we have to fight Rome, instead of embracing new life.

As Betty Rendon, who was serving as an ELCA pastor, awaits deportation. As trans kids in our community dread coming home. As children at our border ache for their parents’ arms. It is magical thinking to believe that our cruelty will make any of this better.

May the advocate come soon, o God, and remove that veil and let your love shine through.