All Saints November 5, 2023 — Rev. Rody Rowe

posted in: Sermons 0

Just imagine . . . .

Just imagine what love the Father has given us!
Imagine we should be called the children of God, children of God!
Just imagine that!
Now imagine, even tho’ what we will be, has not yet been revealed,
When it is, we will be like him…WHAT!
We, shall be, like him. Like Jesus, for we shall see him as he is. Just imagine!

We are summoned this morning is to take on, welcome the gift of holy imagination– to just imagine.

Episcopal priest, professor and writer Barbara Brown Taylor says that there’s even a chance that the Christian vocation is of above all a vocation to imagine:
to see what God sees, when God looks at the world.
… and to believe that God’s dreams can come true.
We are called to imagine that.

It is to me a serendipitous piece of holy synchronicity,
that the first poem almost all children in our culture learn has that thrilling threshold word within it, Wonder: Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder….

Well, how do we? How do we wonder?

The gift of imagination begins with the child—the child within us still, and among us always. And if Brown is right, and I believe she is, then the church’s central task is an imaginative one, and we need the children.
For childhood is an immersion in awe and wonder, isn’t it.

When Jesus said, let the little children come to me, forbid them not for such is the Kingdom of heaven… we might be to prone to think: 
Oh, Jesus would have made a brilliant kindergarten teacher!
Well, he would have, but he was offering a deeply, profound, and saving truth:
We need to keep these “mentors in wonder,” close…to tutor our hearts… to help us locate portals to paradise.

Violet is now 6 & ¾…and I asked her what was her best vacation day from this past summer:  Oh, Papa that’s easy. It was Mama’s birthday.

Tell me about that day (I said). Well, it began watching the sunrise on the front of our boat and eating breakfast. Don’t worry, Papa we were wearing our life jackets and the boat wasn’t tippy at all. What else happened that day, I said?  Well, that was the day we found pirate treasure on one of the islands. Really? Yep, she said. I said and anything else?  Oh yes, that was the day that I saw the mermaid. You saw a mermaid?! Oh yes, right out of the corner of my eye, Papa. I saw her slip right into the water. Well, I said Yeah, she said. And then to end the day we watched the sunset altogether our whole family. And as I was imaging that, seeing them there taking in the world’s glory, she said very quietly, very confidently, Good Times, Papa. Good times.

Want to taste the wander within the mind of Christ? Listen to the Violets of this world.

We need them to help us keep imagining in this malefic darkness, a light that lasts…a goodness a mercy that follows us all our days…

We are summoned this morning to just imagine,
being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,

Here the poet helps:
What if, there is above and below a holy commotion
unseen and yet accessible,

What if we are surrounded by a Christ cherished tribe,
eager to school us, as the Letter of the Hebrews proclaims–

Just imagine being surrounded,
and what if that crowd has been always patiently waiting
for a wink, a nod, a sign from you…
waiting for each of us to open our hearts, just to open our hearts,
to believe that we’re surrounded!

Here’s how I, on my best days imagine it:
Front row, my mother Caroline and Graham Irene and Aunt Elsie,
dressed in perfectly pressed, lace-collared, cotton dresses,
companioned by my dad, dapper in Harris tweed, And Uncle Teddy, and my good friend Jen, who died just a few weeks ago,

what if now we let those admiring, hallowed faces fill our vision.
What if we allowed them to be Our Daily Bread, 
if we reached out, to take they’re so familiar, God warmed hands.

Just imagine being surrounded & reaching out to take their God warmed hands.

The gift of the Gospel to me this morning? We get to see into the compassionate heart of Jesus who clearly knew how hard it is to hang on to paradise in a world often colored by unbearable pain and killing disappointment.

Christ wants to help us hang a shining and unassailable portrait of paradise in the hallways of my own lives in the midst of such a heart-breaking world… How to? Just trust your imagination…Jesus gets us…hard to find a more pastoral, loving, motherly response to our need for heaven, than our Gospel this morning:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled, believe in God,
believe also in me. Imagine this: in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,
trust me on that now I’m going to prepare a place for you,
a place called home, and I’ll take you to myself,
believe me, imagine it in any way that comforts you, quiets your desperate heart.
Where I am, you will also be.

Our holy work and gift? Is for each of us to imagine journey’s end in a unique way that comforts, brings heaven home to us right now.

Here’s mine:
When I was about 40 years old,
I found myself lying in a field in northern Idaho looking up at the deep blue sky,
and as I looked my father came to me-my earthly father who has been dead 20 years.
He didn’t speak to me. I just watched him, and you know what he was doing?
He was preparing for me to come. He was in those final, sweet moments of anticipation.

United Methodist, teacher & preacher Fred Craddock once said that the most intense gift of happiness for human beings is anticipation.
Well, my father was in joy country… enjoying these final moments before love comes again through the door. His son returns.
So, as I lay in that field in northern Idaho. I watched him all dressed up as he arranged the napkins, the silverware, topped up the water glasses, making sure everything was ready.
And every once in a while, he’d look out the window to see if I was walking up the steps to his front door yet. 
Ready for love to arrive home. Ready to welcome me back.

This “many-rooms imagining” keeps saving my life, quieting my quarrelsome and fearsome heart. You can find a portrait too…. And deep healing blessing imagining.

Song writer, Sara Groves has the last word. Her song-story called, “What do I know?” begins like this:

I have a friend who just turned 88,
and she just shared with me that she’s afraid of dying.
I sit here, years from her experience, and try to bring her comfort.
She sings, in a lenitive voice, I tried to bring her comfort,
but what do I know? What do I know.

My friend grew up singing about the glory land, 
and she would testify how Jesus changed her life.
Was easy to have faith when she was 34,
but now her friends are dying,
and death is out the door.
And what do I know, what do I know?

And in trust, out of her many-rooms wonder Sara sings, echoing 1 John:
I don’t know that there are harps in heaven,
or the process for earning your wings.
I don’t know of bright lights at the ends of tunnels,
or any of those things.
But I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord,
and from what I know of him, and from what I know of him that must be very good.

I don’t know that there are harps in heaven, 
or the process of earning your wings.
I don’t know of bright lights at the end of tunnels,
or any of those things
but I know to be absent from this body is to be present to the Lord,
and from what I know of him
from what I know of him
from what I know of him that will be very good. Just imagine that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *