Dreams and visions begin with God. In the beginning God imagined. Blue, red, green. Blue sky. Red at night. Green valleys underneath that blue sky. Shapes and textures and movement and dance. Mountains and stars and beaches of sand. Gemsbok skipping, birds in flocks throwing shapes over the city bridges at twilight and humans touching lips and hearts. All a dream, a vision, imagined and then…then created.
The entire relationship between God and humanity has been about firing that imagination, giving a vision of how people could live; a dream of how society could be. The law would put in place a visionary pattern of how a society in a land promised could be better than what slavery had been in Egypt.
The prophets continued to dream and rant about it. Isaiah imagined a lion and lamb lying down together! Micah imagined swords turned into ploughshares! Jeremiah imagined a brand new covenant and Ezekiel imagined a new shepherd king who would do justice.
God told his people that “young men would see visions and old men would dream dreams.” It is crucial to the whole deal. Sadly the modern church seems to have sent the life of faith up blind alleys of dreamlessness. Indeed imagination and art became something to be suspicious of and even to despise.
Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann has been trying to get the imagination back into Christian thinking for sometime. His books Hopeful Imagination and Prophetic Imagination have made Old Testament theology exciting as well as showing so articulately how high on the Biblical agenda imagination sits.
He writes, “Jesus’ way of teaching through parables was such a pastoral act of prophetic imagination in which he invited his community of listeners out beyond the visible realities of Roman law and the ways in which Jewish law had grown restrictive in his time.”
Writing about Isaiah he shows how the prophet inspires the people with his poetic utterances to believe that another way is possible. He sparks their imagination to have faith in another day. Brueggemann says;
“The practice of such poetic imagination is the most subversive, redemptive act that a leader of a faith community can undertake in the midst of exiles. This work of poetic alternative in the long run is more crucial than one-on-one pastoral care or the careful implementation of institutional goals. That is because the work of poetic imagination holds the potential of unleashing a community of power and action that finally will not be contained by any imperial restrictions and definitions of reality.”
As the Church in the west hits the crisis of diminishing numbers and less influential in the wider world. As I seek to be a better father than I have been until now. What needs lit is the spark of imagining. Dreaming a different world. Grasping God’s vision of a Kingdom where the last person becomes the most important, where we treat the tramp on the street like he was Jesus himself, where the poor are blessed, where the mourn rejoice, where there is dignity and love and a place of belonging for all.
It starts in the life of Jesus, the world that his life inspired us to live, that his death and resurrection won us the ability to make it a reality. The Kingdom will only ripple out as the engine of imagination fires visions and dreams. Let us dream…