Last night we got into the text of Ephesians 1. If I were stranded on a desert island, and I could only have one chapter of scripture with me, it might be Ephesians 1. I love that chapter. And I can’t really explain why, at least not fully.
Something about Ephesians 1 totally captivates my imagination. I am completely taken by this idea that we have access to the same power that God exercised in Christ Jesus when he was resurrected from the grave. Eugene Peterson calls it “Practicing Resurrection”. That phrase, Practice Resurrection, pretty much consumes my imagination.
Imagination is an interesting concept to me. I think we have flirted dangerously, not with losing our minds, but losing our imaginations. As far as I can see in scripture, using our imaginations is a huge part of what it means to be a Christian. The prophets employ all these images and metaphors that beg us to use our imaginations. My favorite is Isaiah 9-11. Isaiah is announcing God’s impending judgment on Israel and Assyria. Both affect God’s people in immeasurable ways. What is left is just a stump. Stump. That’s an interesting image, right? Imagine what that stump looks like in real life. Decimation? Lifelessness? Hopelessness? Death? Destruction? All that is left is just this lifeless remnant, a reminder that there used to be this big, shady, life giving, fruit-bearing tree…. and now, its just a stump.
But I love how Isaiah 11 begins. If someone ever creeps up in your church and starts condemning and cursing everything you do while claiming to be prophetic, just ask them where the hope is. The prophet always speaks from a position of deep love and hope for the community from within the community. In Isaiah 11, we get that hope:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)
I was driving through Rogers the other day, and I drove by a house with a beautiful tree in the front yard. I have driven by this tree a hundred times, but for the first time I really noticed it.
That is the picture of me beside the tree. I call it “Jesse’s Tree”. There it is, in downtown Rogers, a picture of hope.
But think about what that means. Surely the prophet Isaiah has more in mind than just a small tree growing out of a stump. The imagery employs the readers imagination – there are NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR LIFE.
Back to Ephesians 1. Paul grips my imagination with this line:
“I pray also that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you… and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” (Eph. 1:18-20)
There are new possibilities for life. Resurrection life. Life in the country of death. Life from the stump of Jesse.
When I was at Pepperdine last week, Don McLaughlin spoke about the ultimate victory of evil vs. the ultimate victory of the slaughtered lamb. This quote form his keynote sermon struck a chord with me:
“The ultimate victory of evil is the loss of imagination, when we can no longer imagine anything other than what is.”
I think he’s right.
We need to read scripture with the “eyes of our heart” attuned to the imagery, art, poetry, and metaphor that awakens our imaginations – so that we can dream of life other than it is now. So that we can practice resurrection.
Church, let us awaken our imaginations to dream of life otherwise, right here, right now, in the midst of the old world that is passing away, aimed at the new one that is coming to birth in the kingdom of God. May his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.