Liturgy: “Jesus Wants Your Imagination”

Only our imaginations can help us to see other people, including our enemies, the way Jesus wants us to see them—exactly as valuable, complicated, needy, and fully alive as ourselves.

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What is the King’s Liturgy? King’s Liturgy defines our experience together as a Christian community. It outlines the rhythms we celebrate with the Church at large: Scripture readings, Sabbath habits, and celebration of Holy Days and historical events.

This Week’s Lectionary Readings
Genesis 45:3-11
1 Corinthians 15:35-38
Luke 6:27-38
Psalm 37:1-12


This week’s liturgy is contributed by Dr. Ethan Campbell, Associate Professor of English and Literature:

My 8-year-old son Jonah’s latest obsession is Calvin & Hobbes. If you aren’t familiar with this 1990s comic strip, I urge you to read it—the main character, Calvin, is a little boy with a wild imagination whose stuffed tiger, Hobbes, comes to life when adults aren’t around.

Jonah’s favorite strips are the ones where Calvin imagines creatures that are twisted versions of real life—the grotesque swamp thing is actually his principal; the sticky glop-monster is his oatmeal (which Calvin defeats by flinging it around the kitchen); the slobbering space alien is actually Mom, bringing lemonade on a hot day.

These images bring back memories for me, because I had the same imagination as a kid. I constantly see my boyhood self in Jonah, every time he invents a story and loses himself in it, imagining basketball dunks, rock-star performances, battles with fantastical creatures. Sometimes when we cross the street, I have to tell him, “Time to focus on the real world, not the little world in your head.” Teachers and other adults were forever telling me the same thing at his age—“stop spacing off,” “get your head out of the clouds,” “come back to reality.” I was a “spaceman,” a “space cadet,” a “space case.”

Sadly, by the time we’ve reached college, most of us have internalized those voices, and that rich imaginative world we had as children has faded away. We become the adults who see Hobbes as a stuffed toy, no longer alive in our minds.

Of course, it’s important to be practical and realistic and face the world as it is—we should look harsh truths in the face and let go of naïve illusions. But as Christians, we are also called to imagine the world as it could be if things were different. Jesus commands us to cultivate our imaginations in order to better serve the kingdom of God.

Wait, what? Jesus commands us to use our imaginations?

Yes, in fact, he does, in several places throughout the Gospels. One of the most significant of those places is in the reading for this week, Luke 6:31, a verse so famous we hardly think about what Jesus is saying. It’s the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Another translation (The Voice) puts it this way: “Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same to them.”

In order to follow this command well, we need a healthy, well-developed imagination. Jesus tells us first to think carefully about what we wish, about what would or could happen in an ideal world. Then we have to imagine another person wishing for the same thing, actually imagine ourselves as them. In a sense, we put ourselves inside that little world in another person’s head, and respond to what we find there.

Only our imaginations can make this trick of ordinary magic happen. Only our imaginations can help us to see other people, including our enemies, the way Jesus wants us to see them—exactly as valuable, complicated, needy, and fully alive as ourselves. As we grow, may we never lose this childlike ability, which helps us to love the vastly different others around us.

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