Monday, October 25, 2021

Failure of Imagination

I shared the following devotional at our Foundation Academy of Faith and Generosity.

On January 27, 1967, three astronauts, whose names were Gus Grishom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, were in the cabin of Apollo 1, conducting a launch rehearsal test for the flight.  The spacecraft was pressurized with 100% oxygen as the crew went through a full simulation of countdown and launch. The test ran for 5 ½ hours, and the entire contents of the craft were saturated with oxygen.  Just after 6:31 that evening, electricity arced in some wiring below their feet, and a fire started.  Within 10 seconds, the spacecraft was filled with fire.  All three astronauts died.

Frank Borman, who was a veteran of the Gemini program, testified to the congressional committee investigating the accident.  He said, “We did not think, and this is a failing on my part, and on everyone associated with us; we did not recognize the fact that we had three essentials, an ignition source, extensive fuel, and of course, we knew we had oxygen.” No one had considered the possibility of fire on the ground – only in space.  No one considered the preflight rehearsal to be a hazardous test.  Borman said it was a “failure of imagination.”

Let’s go back to where we started.  Think back to the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus, grieving.  He was failing to imagine how anything could be more satisfying to him than his riches. He was failing to imagine how different – how abundant – his life could be if he let go of what he valued the most.  He failed to imagine God at work in his life. 

We are made in the image of God. Our God is the God who created the universe by speaking it into existence. We have that gift. A potter can look at a lump of clay and imagine the finished product. As parents, we look at our children and can imagine what they will be as adults (most days, anyway). A cook can look at flour, sugar and eggs and imagine what the cake will taste like. The gift of imagination is a wonderful tool that we too often fail to use.

Do we ever look at our churches and imagine what they could become if we allowed God to enter into the discussion? So many people want us to be the church that we were fifty years ago. Do we ever imagine that we can be more than "just" the church that we were? Do we ever imagine what wonderful plans God has in mind for us?

Do you ever look at yourself and feel too small for the task that God has set before you? Do you ever say to yourself that you are "just" a church member, "just" an unequipped lay member, “just” a new graduate from seminary, or “just” a pastor? Do you ever look at a problem and think that it is too big for someone who is "just" one person to solve? I know I do.

Like NASA, we might fail to recognize the building blocks we have – the ingenuity of the leaders God has provided – all of you, and your colleagues in ministry. We fail to remember that we are made in the image of God – imagined into being by God – gifted with creativity and spiritual gifts for the building of the Church.  We forget that the people in our church have been called to God’s service – and that they are trying to hear that call.  And we fail to imagine how great and powerful God is – and that God can do even the unimaginable.

And yet, God calls us beyond the "just" of who we think we are. God calls us to be who he imagines that we can become. God calls the church to be the church of God’s imagination. God calls us to believe that we are more than "just" who we think we are; God calls us to have the faith to believe that we are who God has created us to be.

Once we can do that, we will begin to see that this world is not what God plans for it to be. Once we can see with God's eyes, and believe in what God sees, then we will begin to understand that God is here, God is now, and all around us is the kingdom of God.

“…if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’”

Can you imagine it?

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