One little spark…

Of inspiration, is at the heart of all creation.  Right at the start of everything that’s new, one little spark lights up for you.

Dreamfinder begins our Journey Into Imagination at EPCOT with that little song.

Written by the Sherman Brothers who wrote so many Disney classics, this one celebrates the power of imagination and introduces us to the character of Figment – a “figment” of our imagination.  But those words could very well be describing God and the creation of the universe. Think about what kind of imagination had to go into making all of this stuff!  What level of brilliance would you have to have to create the thousands of different types of living beings on this planet? From blue whales to the common housefly, God created it all as well as all of the variations we see within each species.  It’s fascinating to think about how God put it all together, but to have the genius to envision the millions of species and variations within species is even more remarkable.  And not even just living things.  No two snowflakes are exactly alike.  Who thinks of all the different ways you can make a snowflake?  A couple of years ago, I was at a conference listening to pastor Erwin McManus talking about faith, and he told us about a guy who asked him, “Why is it that we grow up believing in lots of imaginary beings but as we grow up we stop believing in them, but we still hold on to God?”  And Erwin’s response is what got me thinking about all of this.  He asked the guy a question in return, “How do you know it wasn’t God who created imagination?”

Listening to Erwin McManus speaking at the eChurch Summit

That would make sense wouldn’t it?  God created imagination.

The power to be able to envision things we can’t see or touch is a gift from God.  And maybe the gift of imagination is the means by which we are able to know God at all.  God is so far beyond human comprehension even his own name is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”[1] When Moses asked God to tell him his name, God said “I AM WHO I AM.”  I don’t think God was being evasive or cagey.  We just can’t simplfy God to a single word like “Bob.”  Instead for us to truly know God we have to experience God.  It’s why John wrote in his first letter to the church, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  It’s through these other means like love and faith that we come to know the creator of the universe.  Our imagination helps us to bridge the gap between what is seen and what is unseen. 

But as we grow older, we tend to drive out imagination in favor of reality.

Or what we call reality.  We start to become “realists” instead of “optimists.”  But let’s be honest.  Often times the word “realist” is code for “pessimist.”  It’s not just about seeing the world for what it is, but being limited by it. We tend to let go of what could be and instead turn inward.  As Andy Stanley once said, We begin to replace the “wow” with “how.” Meaning we become so fixated on the “how” that we shove the “wow” right out of the church.[2]  But that’s not the people God created us to be.  He gave us imagination so we could bring to life a world of possibilities that exceeded our reality.  As Robert Kennedy once said, “Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?”[3]   At this point in Jesus’ life, the Pharisees began to feel threatened by this upstart.  Jesus now has a group of dedicated disciples and he has been teaching in the synagogues and miraculously healing people.  Obviously there is something different about this man that draws attention to him and the Pharisees don’t like it.  They won’t admit it, but Jesus is drawing power and authority away from them and they are desperate to get it back.  So they keep picking on him every chance they get.  They keep trying to find ways to discredit him and his teachings.  And even though it goes against everything God commands of them, they plot to get rid of him – which is code for murder.  That’s where we pick up today.  The Pharisees already accused Jesus of breaking the law by picking grain on the Sabbath and now they are at it again.  We will be reading this morning from Luke 6:6-11.

6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.

9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

“What they might do to Jesus…”

Sounds pretty ominous.  This is of course more code for “plotting to kill Jesus.”  They justify it by saying they are doing it in the name of God, but isn’t that always the way with men who want power and influence?  Say it’s in the name of God, back it up with some Scripture you’ve taken out of context and people will believe you, even when it flies completely against everything God teaches us.  Because of their own human lust for power and control, they refuse to open their minds to the possibility Jesus is truly the Christ – the one the prophets had long said would come.  They can’t imagine the possibility that this man could be the Messiah because that would mean they would need to bend their minds to a new reality – a reality where Christ was made real.  So even though they see this man do miracles right in front of them, even though they are witnesses to things that no man could possibly do, they haven’t even thought that this man could be the one who was promised.  In John 11, we read about how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Now, if you had actually seen this miracle occur, if you knew it was real and there were tons of witnesses, you would hope that would be enough to open up someone’s mind, but it doesn’t.  People become so fixated on their own reality, they often miss the miracles right in front of them. The Pharisees call a meeting of all the Jewish leaders and they say, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”  And Caiaphas, the high priest, says, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”  He even prophesied “that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one (John 11:47-52).”. So although they were doing it for their own selfish reasons, they ended up helping Jesus fulfill the prophecies that would do exactly that.

How amazing would it have been to know you were walking with God!

These people missed out on the opportunity of a thousand lifetimes because they had lost the “wow” and had been focused on the “how.”  Miracles were being performed right in front of them and they couldn’t see it!  Instead they were laser-focused on the ramifications of allowing this man to continue teaching and saw it as a threat instead of a blessing.  But before we become too judgmental about the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders, can we really say we are all that different?  Do we really keep our eyes wide open for the ways in which God works in our own lives?  True, we may not have seen someone rise from the dead, but do we also sometimes miss the “wow” for the “how?”  When I was in college, I worked two summers up in the dorms.  The pay wasn’t great, but they covered room and board and it beat having to move back home every year.  At night, all of us working on campus would hang out and I remember this guy who said he didn’t believe in love.  Having experienced love many times myself – or at least what I thought was love – I was shocked he would say that.  I said, “You’re telling me you don’t think love exists?”  And he said, “Nope.  It’s just a chemical reaction within your body that stimulates different hormones to make you think you’re feeling something we call ‘love’ but that’s all it really is.  It’s just a chemical reaction.”  So I asked him why this chemical reaction only happened between certain people and not just everyone we met and he told me that it was based on certain physical and mental stimuli hard-wired into our brains as we grew up.  Is there some truth to what he said?  Sure.  Love does create chemical reactions within our bodies that causes us to react in different ways.  Are we influenced by our environment and how we grew up?  Sure, our choices are always affected by our experiences.  But does that mean love doesn’t exist?  Talk about taking the “wow” out of life.

“Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” “He did see it. That’s why it’s here.”

But to some degree we all do that.

We all take the “wow” out of life.  We forget that we live in a world where God came to earth for the salvation of all humanity.  We forget 51 weeks out of the year that Jesus was resurrected after being hung on a cross, stabbed in the side of his body, and placed inside a stone tomb that it took many men to seal.  If we constantly lived in the mindset that we walked with a God who could do these amazing things, maybe we would be more open to the possibilities that are right in front of us.  Maybe we would be more open to the work of the Holy Spirit within us.  And maybe we could truly be the children of God we were always meant to be.  I love going to a Disney theme park because they make you feel like you’re walking into a different world – a world that COULD exist.  A world of possibilities.  It’s a reminder that we are only limited by what we dare to achieve and that we are meant to create a better world.  Fifty years ago, Walt Disney World opened its gates for the first time to the public.  And on opening day one person commented, “Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this?” To which another replied, “He did see it.  That’s why it’s here.”[4]  Embrace the gift of imagination that God has given you and see where it can take you.  Live a life that embraces the possibilities!  After all, we live in a world where Jesus lived, died, and rose again.  Anything is possible.

[1] A quote by Winston Churchill describing

[2] From a talk I attended at a conference where Andy was speaking.

[3] Actually RFK was paraphrasing a quote by George Bernard Shaw in a speech at the University of Kansas.

[4] Craig Groeschel, It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, (Zondervan, 2008) p. 48

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