For the sermon this morning I asked folk to enter into the gospel narrative with their imaginations. In college a Catholic priest walked me through the Ignatian Exercises and the value of imagining the gospel story. I think it went over quite well. Some folk were deeply moved and even a few wiped some tears away at the end. You never know where God may lead people.
I asked people to climb the tree with Zaccheaus, imagine what it felt like for Jesus to find them and call them a child of Abraham to give you just a few of the examples.
When I asked to imagine what Jesus' or God's voice sounded like, #3 sitting on the VOR's lap growled really loud. It was quite humorous and caught me off guard.
Here was the introduction to the exercise:
In the 18th chapter of Luke after the rich young ruler departed Jesus’ presence with his tail between his legs the disciples asked: If the rich cannot be saved then who can?
I imagine Jesus laughed it off and responded:
What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.
I’m sure Jesus’ comment comforted the disciples then about as much as it comforts us today. It should make us squirm a little bit, why? In comparison to Jesus’ day every one of us would be considered not only rich but rolling in the dough. So what are we to do then? Sell all we have? Or is there another religion that is a little less stringent?
If we look at this question solely from the perspective portrayed in the gospels then there is no way out of the corner. But the way the situation is proposed in the gospels is kind of like asking people how do you pronounce the capital of Kentucky is it Louisville or Louisville? It is pronounced Frankfort. Or like one of those puzzle where you are asked to draw a square with a diagonal going through without lifting your pencil from the paper. You try and try but can’t get it, the answer is to draw a large triangle with a square in it. So the same goes for what are we, the rich to do. How can we, the rich, be saved?
Our answer is an old one, you have it somewhere in the childhood memories. Sure you know it:
Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he
He climbed up on a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see
And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree
And he said, Zaccheaus, you come down from there
For I’m going to your house today, I’m going to your house today
Zaccheaus came down from that tree, as happy as he could by,
He gave his money to the poor and said: “What a better man I can be
(Yes I actually sang that)
Zaccheaus the toll collector, the wee little man, the dude up in the sycamore tree – he is our answer. Aint that just like God to surprise us with examples of grace, faith and salvation.
This morning I want us to experiment with our imaginations to discover the good news. When you watch a television show you watch them from the a specific vantage point in the room. Only when the camera pans back do you realize that the room you were in is a set. The gospels are the same, we are to view them not as disinterested outsiders but as intimate insiders. They invite us to be nosy and to fully engage the story.
Do you remember sitting in class daydreaming and the teacher calling you back to reality? Do you still daydream? Studies are showing that daydreaming is one of the most helpful techniques for setting goals and creating self initiative. Have you seen all the books of lists, things you must do before you die? All built on imagination. God gave us both reason and imagination, they are exist symbiotically.
This morning I want to invite you into the story and experience it as a total sensory experience. The goal of sermons week after week, bible reading, praying, fellowship, and the rest is to somehow internalize the gospel. We want the biblical story to join our life story and form a new and transformative narrative. We desire for the bible not just to be a book we turn to for comfort but a book that is thoroughly ingrained in our consciousness and life.
So join come on and join me.