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Let us commit unrecognized acts of imagination

by davesandel on January 11th, 2021

Monday, January 11, 2021                 (today’s lectionary)

Monday of the First Week in Ordinary Time

Let us commit unrecognized acts of imagination

In times past God spoke in partial and various ways through the prophets, and in these last days God spoke to us through the Son, through whom he created the universe.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. And Bible stories were colorful and true. I didn’t question them. God made the world with his own two hands, and Moses raised his staff and parted the Red Sea, and Jesus’ mother was a virgin. Pick a story, and in Sunday School our teacher got out his flannel board figures and told us all about it. I was in my “pre-critical” stage. I never questioned anything. I believed every word. Why wouldn’t I?

The Lord is king, let all his angels worship him. Let the earth rejoice.

Later after four years in high school and four more years at Valparaiso University, I turned my back on those stories. God couldn’t have been as violent and destructive as the Old Testament said he was. And Jesus might not have risen from the dead, if he even existed at all. For me the Bible lost its reputation as a textbook for truth and became just another book. This was my “critical” stage. The problem is, it left me in what Brad Karelious calls a “skeptical desert.”

But it doesn’t end there. Paul Ricoeur, along with countless scholars and teachers who read his work, recognizes a third stage of thinking he simply calls “the post-critical stage.” This second childhood or second naivete restores mystery and drama to my experience of religion. I can read the Bible again with an open mind and discern truth which is more subtle, nuanced, and interesting.

The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.

What we always do with the Biblical text, says Walter Brueggemann, “is commit mostly unrecognized acts of imagination by which we stretch and pull and extend the implications of the text beyond its words.” The Ignatian Exercises, as experienced by Brad Karelious, “invite Jesus to be with me, open my imagination and draw me into the scripture. My old skeptical distance fades. I feel called again to the place of wonder I knew many years ago.”

T. S. Eliot knew of this circling back. “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Jesus says to us, “Come after me. Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”

G. K. Chesterton grew up and then chose to see the world as a child again … witness a bit of his poem “A Second Childhood:”

When all my days are ending and I have no song to sing

I think that I shall not be too old to stare at everything,

As I stared once at a nursery door, or a tall tree and a swing.

On this morning-after-an-unbelievable-Sunday in Austin, looking up and covered with inches of giant snowflakes falling for hours from the sky, the child in me loves to hear the stories of Jesus, and know the truths they teach me with my own given-by-God imagination. Seek and find. Listen to the Warm.

(Hebrews 1, Psalm 97, Mark 1)

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