When I am on a journey, I am inspired to keep going by imagining what might be. If I am travelling up and down these Islands and Inlets for work, as I used to more often pre-pandemic, I would be imagining the possibilities of the meetings, visits, events I was doing. When I have travelled abroad or at home, I have likewise been excited by the possibilities which my imagination has led me to - not fantasies of what might be, but knowing the people or places or communities I was going to lifted my imagination to all that could be - and, more often than not, that would give, and does give, a vision which enlivens and 'opens up' my time with those I am meeting or the things I am part of.
The theologian Walter Bruggemann has a book called 'The Prophetic Imagination' in which (to quote the On Being project,
"...Bruggemann argues that the prophetic imagination is the imagination that we all are capable of, individually and working together, to imagine that things can be better, that we can challenge injustice and we can bring about a better life, a life that would be more the way that God created us to live." (context here)
Various writers have talked, likewise, of 'Holy Imagination' - and there are a number books and websites of various traditions which use that title. Imagination is an often neglected part of our shared faith journey. It is imagination that draws us into new possibilities, new ways of doing, new ways of being.
If there is any critique I would offer of the contemporary Church, it is that we often seem to have lost our way of imagining. We look back at how things were, we lament the struggles we face today and, as I have heard repeatedly, we foster a great amount of anxiety around finances and what we feel we lack. We can't imagine what could be, we are so often bound by what is.
On our Advent journey, I pray we may all have our 'holy imagination' re-ignited - the courage and the freedom to dream dreams, to see visions, to be open to the creative Spirit of God in seeking where this spiritual journey is drawing us.
In the book of Acts, Chapter 2, the first disciples of Christ have an experience of the Spirit being 'poured out upon them,' following which Peter speaks to the crowd who gather, quoting the Hebrew prophet, Joel
"...this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
"In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy...." "
Acts Chapter 2 verses 16-18