Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
There were many of us who went to see the new Stars Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Kathy and I always think back on our first Stars Wars movie when we took our six-week-old son to the $2 theater in Saugus, Massachusetts. We were struck at the kind of imagination it took George Lucas to create the movie.
The church and imagination have always been uncertain dance partners. They have stepped on each other’s toes and fought over who leads. We have witnessed the trouble a poor soul encounters when they imagine a piece of church furniture can be moved or a tradition changed. While no one wants to hear the same sermon every Sunday, whoa to the preacher who lets their imagination get beyond the congregation’s.
And yet imagination is key to the life of faith. The visions of the prophets were holy imaginations of what Israel could be. Jesus’ use of parables was sacred imagination in the power of storytelling. John’s vision of God’s kingdom victory over the Roman Empire has fueled imaginations for 2,000 years.
Perhaps the biggest stretch of our holy imagination is ourselves as a more faithful disciple. We know the facts about ourselves. We know the shelf life of our January resolution. We know we have made these promises before.
But here we have an edge over Lucas. The power of our force is the gift of grace. That grace, with the personal coaching of the Holy Spirit, has the power that the Empire can only dream about. We are not stuck on some isolated planet. We are called to imagine 2our life as more faithful, more grace filled, and more focused on others. And may that force be with you.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent Christmas in my own home as an adult. We have shared that day with grandparents and other family. In a pre-Amazon era, we hid presents among the luggage and spent those days on the road just like Joseph and Mary. But of course I knew that my bed was there to welcome me when it was all over.
Henry was way past 80 when I first met him. He had not attended our congregation for many years because of his wife’s illness. Although I tried to visit with them often, it was not till she was hospitalized that Henry and I had regular conversations. Henry had been a deacon in this congregation almost thirty years previously. One of our conversations led to the solution for a maintenance issue that had puzzled us for a long time.
Renee was a vivacious young girl who wanted to marry me when she grew up. She actually sort of let me off the hook a few years ago when she got married. Renee had great insights into the Bible and what it meant to be good people.
As I write this the airplane carrying Pope Francis is probably in its final approach into Rome. In the United States it is Monday, with all of the start-of-the-week chores waiting for us. The analysis of the impact of the Pope’s visit continues. It continues in the media and in the minds of the people who heard him speak or enjoyed an individual encounter. The Pope used his influence to talk about many of the important issues of the day. Immigration, climate change, and the death penalty were directly addressed, just to name a few.
We are making a generational shift in our family this year. My wife, Kathy, is not teaching school for the first time in thirty-three years. Our grandson, Dylan, started preschool. So there is at least someone in the family in a classroom this fall.