United Church of Christ

Sermon Starter 2019

Compare and Contrast

Coinbox_pastor.jpgToo many of God’s children live in hellish conditions. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering invites us to use our imaginations towards a world where fewer of God’s children must live this way. Yet, in our minds, the word “imagine” may be too weak, too puny. Or maybe what comes to our remembrance is John Lennon’s now-iconic song of the same name. (One way into the theme “more than we can imagine” could be to talk about why Lennon was likely disheartened and discouraged by religion.) The lyrics include the words: “Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try. No hell below us; above us only sky.” [If the preacher has audio capability, the song could be played (with appropriate license). Or the tune could simply be played on the piano or the preacher says the lines from the song].

While it is, of course, true -- thanks be to God! -- that millions of Christians have found their inspiration in their religion to help their fellow human beings, we must admit that it is also indeed true that religion has too often been the source of strife and even injustice, instead of peace and reconciliation. “Hell” has too often been used as a weapon, and “heaven” has too often been used to dismiss the importance of earthly suffering.

But God’s understanding of “imagine” is different: it is God’s hope that Christians will imagine – and work for – a world where peace, freedom, and justice are more and more a reality for all people. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering invites each of us to give generously and participate in God’s imagination so that people everywhere will live as one.

WORD-PLAY
In much of common English usage, the word “imagine” (and its variants) usually connotes something not really real. “Oh, that’s just your imagination.” “You’re imagining that.” (The preacher has an opportunity here to contrast that ordinary use of the word imagination with God’s use of the word.) The way “imagination” is commonly used is often a dead-end – nothing comes from it. God imagines a world where all might live in peace – and created such, according to Genesis. Paul imagines a world where through Christ all are reconciled to God and one another (2 Corinthians 5:19). John of Patmos imagines a world where there are no more tears, and pain shall be banished (Revelation 21). But God’s imagination always moves towards creation and re-creation. And God’s imagination always invites us to join God as co-creators of a vision of what can yet be: a world where there is less violence, where all people have clean water and decent hygiene, where no one is hungry.

Through our gifts, we can join God in imagining these things and more! We don’t have to be relegated to only imagining, but we can join in by doing our part to make it so.