A Word from Our Pastor 2017 January

Another new year, 2017.

There’s something about the new year season; I’m always more aware of facing an unknown future. Somehow, the rest of the time, I just go along day to day, not in the frame of mind of anticipating the future, just getting the day’s chores done. But when the year turns from one to the next, it’s almost like blowing out the birthday candles on a cake: make a wish. What do you want to experience, who do you want to be, in the new year?

So this year, I invite you to IMAGINE. Not just daydream, but put your heart into thinking and feeling what may come – picture in your mind’s eye the things you would like to see happen. Imagining may seem like a “weak” thing to some of us. However, the more we imagine something, the more vivid, the more detailed our hopes are, the more likely we are to DO something about it – do something to make it happen.

Actually, prayer is a form of imagining, isn’t it? In prayer, we may use words, we may use images, we may use song – when we pray, we invite God to know our deepest thoughts and desires. And in inviting God, we are asking for God’s wisdom, strength and goodness to guide us. Many times, God invites us: to take action, to live in such a way that our hopes and dreams will become more real. And, God has a dream for us: God has been imagining a world for us that we see described in the Hebrew Bible, in the New Testament, and in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God, where the lion lays down with the lamb, where the rich are sent empty away and the poor are filled with good things, where they who mourn are comforted, where the dead are resurrected – those are aspects of God’s dream for us. As we are often reminded: we are God’s hands and feet and heart in this world; if the hungry are to be fed, if the naked are to be clothed, if the thirsty are to be given water, if the homeless are to be housed, if those who are hated are to be protected and welcomed: who will do it, in Jesus’ name, if not us?

I think John Lennon’s famous song, “Imagine,” is a prayer:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace. . .

It may sound odd to say that this is a prayer, because the words seem anti-religious. I would say, “anti-religion,” probably. Lennon probably thought that religion (and certain religious beliefs), nationalism, greed are things that divide people, that create hatred and stand in the way of peace. Although Jesus warned that those who would follow him would be persecuted (“I come to bring a sword, he said), Jesus always put the needs of others before “religious” practice. As his conflicts with the Scribes and Pharisees demonstrated, religion can get in the way of God’s dream. Jesus might even agree with John Lennon.

God’s dream for us is written between the lines of “Imagine.” But God’s dream for us was also made real, made visible, in Jesus. Jesus taught us to live God’s dream in the words, “Love God with all your being, love your neighbor as yourself, treat other people the way you want to be treated, and if you find enemies along the way do everything you can to make them your friends.”

So, take a moment in the next day or so, as part of your New Year’s celebration to write your own prayer, write another verse of “Imagine.” You might take pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, or just picture in your mind how you would see God’s dream in your family, in your church, in your neighborhood, in your world in 2017. And imagine how you can be God’s hands and feet and heart in creating that world. . .May you have a blessed 2017, and may you be a blessing!
–Rev. Naomi