Ministry of imagination -- creative dreaming

There is no shortage of needs. It takes a ministry of imagination and creative dreaming to connect with those needs in a realistic and meaningful way.


It would have been a very good day to be sitting in the synagogue that day way back when Jesus was handed the scroll with the reading from the Prophet Isaiah. They handed the text over to him, as one of the local rabbis, to read. He read it and then gave one of the shortest homilies ever.

The text: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

The homily: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Now if your local rabbi did that; that is, read the scripture, add one sentence and sit down, you’d probably more than wonder.

We don’t hear much in this passage about how the people reacted to what Jesus had said as he rolled up the scroll and sat down. But in the next few verses after today’s Gospel, we do. Jesus says that there’s no recognition for a prophet in his own land. And he elaborated. Then, they drove him out of the city, his own town of Nazareth.

Walter Bruggemann (one of the most recognized Old Testament scholar of our day) says, “It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing future alternatives to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.”

He also said that people who control the power, don’t know what to make of prophets and they try to silence them.

What Jesus said that day in the temple was keeping the ministry of imagination alive. You could also call it “creative dreaming”.

Later, according to Luke, Jesus says “Blessed are the poor”. According to Matthew, he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

There is so much in Jesus’ ministry about the poor. “The poor with be with you always,” he said. So, it sounds to me that a major focus that Jesus gives to his followers is about caring for the poor. He stretches the imagination beyond focusing on oneself and points clearly toward caring for the poor.

It is a prophetic message for us. It stirs imagination – creative dreaming – how to care for the poor. How to focus attention and action on reaching out to the poor. The poor are with us always. The poor are all around us in this city, in our province and nation and throughout the entire world. And the kings of this world are not making the plight of the poor any better. Today, there are more displaced people in the world than since the end of WWII. In our province, cunning campaigns that confuse and skew the facts reveal an assault on the homeless, those who cannot afford medical care, those of meagre means who seek an education.

There is no shortage of needs. It takes a ministry of imagination and creative dreaming to connect with those needs in a realistic and meaningful way. And, it seems to me that that is our call as a parish – to dream creatively, to put the ministry of imagination into action in order to do what Jesus teaches us to be doing.

It is a task for our parish and it is a task for each of us as people of the parish to own our call and to take responsibility to figure out how best to make it happen – to realize how we can take our part in caring for the poor and for those in need.

It’s what our Planning and Options group are spearheading. They are taking the lead and calling each of us to engage. You can read more about that in our recent newsletter and in several places with related articles on our website, especially the section Things to think about. (If you don’t have access, we can print copies for you.) Or just ask any member of the Planning and Options Group.

The bottom line is that being a community of faith, who follow Jesus, is being a community who see beyond themselves. A community of faith comes together to reach out meaningfully into the world especially to the poor and to those in need. That is a ministry of imagination. That, it seems to me, is creative dreaming.

There’s on more thing too. Luke says, “Blessed are the poor.” Matthew says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” The poor in spirit are those who know their need of God. That is us. That is you and I.

We gather as a community of faith – as followers of Jesus – as members of his body in the world. And Jesus, through Matthew, says that we too are blessed because we know our need of God. We are the poor in spirit. When you take a look a things from that perspective, we do know about needs.

The thing is we are blessed when we recognize that we too have needs. Ours may not be material in the same ways as are others', but when we take a moment to think about it, we do know about our need of God. And we can learn from that.

By recognizing that we also are in need, we have a pathway into having compassion for others who also are in need. We know that our needs are met through our faith in Jesus. So by putting our own experience of having needs into action, we can be part of bringing good news to the poor. That is how to embody good news for the poor, release to the captives, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.

And that is how the words of the prophet are fulfilled.

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