Monday, January 23, 2012

Imagine that

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

I can only imagine

[Chorus:]
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in honour of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
When I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Jesus dares us to imagine. Yet his message couldn’t be further from the one of this popular song by MercyMe. Jesus doesn’t challenge us to imagine what it’s going to be like when we finally get to heaven. He challenges us to imagine what it’s going to be like when we live in a different world.

It makes me think of the lyrics to another song. But this isn't one they play on Christian radio stations.

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

I suspect that Jesus would have loved John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”, because it stirs us to imagine a whole new way of being in the world. Jesus’ understanding of his mission, and his followers’ mission, is to imagine a new world order. The Christian gospel and the community it creates are utterly different from the business as usual that we encounter in the world around us.

Think about the way that power is experienced in the world and the way it works in Jesus’ life and teachings. Whereas, in the world we usually define power as lording it over someone, Jesus says that true power comes in serving others. This sounds simple enough. But it is a radically different way of being in the world...
• A world where we compete in sporting events to prove that we’re number one
• A world where people make it their life’s work to step over other people while they climb the corporate ladder
• A world where we hoard all the goods we can for ourselves
• A world where we use others to get what we want from them
• A world where the nation with the most weapons and the strongest army assumes what they have to say has more clout

“It shall not be so among you,” Jesus says. “But whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Imagine a world like that? That’s what Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to imagine a new way of being, with a new perception of what power is.

Daring to imagine this is ultimately what gets Jesus killed. His resurrection shows us that things can be different.

The story the world lives by, the story of lording power over another, doesn’t have to be our story. There’s another story for us, and Jesus calls us to be a part of that story.

Jesus invites us first to imagine that story for ourselves. Maybe that doesn’t sound all the impressive, just getting people to imagine a new way of being. But, what could be more powerful than to actually change another person’s way of seeing the world? That’s what Jesus did. He taught his followers to imagine what had been unimaginable. And then, he called them to live into it. Yes, still in this world, but without living by the script of the world’s story. Living by the Jesus story.

That’s what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God. It’s not just someplace where we go someday after we die. But it’s a place where we live right here, right now, because it’s a way of life.

As Jesus' followers, kingdom living means something else for us, as well. It means working toward a realization of God’s kingdom on this earth: a kingdom where we bend our knees, not to bow to the powers of this world, but to serve one another in love. We ask for the courage to do that every time we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Imagine that.

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