(Acts 16:16-34, Psalm 97, Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/AnAU26EhOQ0)
[Jesus prayed:] 20“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
When I was a kid…a long, long, long time ago(!)…life seemed to fly by in a whirl. Friends came and went, events happened, and life simply unfolded without a care in the world. Get up, have fun, try to stay out of trouble, go to bed, wake up, and repeat the whole process all over again. And sure there were certain friends and events that clearly stick out in my mind more than others. That one birthday party when I received a pair of cowboy boats only to later kick a friend in the face with and give him a bloody nose. That one pine tree in the back yard that I would climb over and over and over again, getting ever higher until the height became just too scary. That one ice cream shop my sisters and I would ride our bikes to to get ice cream mixed with bubblegum. That one abandoned building down by the railroad tracks filled with discarded frisbees which would entertain us for multiple summers! Indeed, the wonders of childhood are endless.
And sometime during all that fun I had heard a song while riding in my uncle’s pickup truck. It was a song that resonated within my deepest core being. Of course, I had no idea who sang it nor even the title of it…just a few notes on the piano and a soft lullaby of a melody…ever gentle, ever soothing. Now years would pass before I ever heard that song again but when I did it immediately brought me back to those carefree, magical days of early childhood. I was determined to not let the moment slip away and sought out the title and artist of that song. As it turned out, it is a song that has touched the lives of millions of people by an artist known throughout the world. Nearly 45 years ago, John Lennon of the Beatles’ fame gave us that magical song, “Imagine.” Perhaps you’ve heard it but allow me to simply lift up its lyrics. They go:
Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.
It is a simple, straightforward song made all the simpler with a basic melody played on the piano yet the words, oh the words, are profoundly difficult to accept! We don’t want to imagine there’s no heaven! It would be nice to be without hell but a world without countries?! How would we care for each other and fairly distribute our limited resources without countries?! No religion? How can we worship the same God without religion? No possessions? What fun is that?! Yet without our need to own anything we could quite possibly get rid of greed and hunger. After all, nothing in this world is ours to own…everything in this world belongs to God. We’re just mere caretakers!
But what’s most powerful about the song is the 2-line refrain. Lennon acknowledges the absurdity of his imagination. At the same time, he boldly claims he isn’t the only one with an imagination. In fact, we ALL have imaginations, some of them richer than others. He beckons us to join him and all the others who can imagine a world without divisions, a world without cause for divisions. Lennon wants us to live as a united people, as one. There is no need for divisions in this world. We’re a better people, a stronger people, a healthier people, and a happier people when we are without divisions. This isn’t to say that we should all be the same people. No, there is great strength in diversity. What Lennon is imagining is a world without division, a world without cause for division. The things he imagined getting rid of can, at times, be causes for division. Countries, religions, possessions, heaven, and hell can all be causes of division, exactly what Lennon is trying to avoid.
And division is exactly what God tries to avoid as well. God doesn’t want us to live as a divided people. God wants us to live as a united people. Everything God does and says in scripture serves to unite us into one cohesive body. You think Lennon had an imagination? God has an imagination that is infinitely deeper and richer than Lennon’s! Just look at creation! God’s imagination is something we can’t even begin to understand or make sense of. But be assured that God is always working to bring us into unity with each other and with Him. As rich and deep that His imagination is, it serves but one purpose—to bring us into one. Why else would God send Paul to people like the slave-girl in our first lesson? We heard of her mockery of Paul which only reflected a separation from God. An evil spirit had possessed her and Paul needed to rid her of the spirit so that she might return to oneness with God. Paul is beaten and imprisoned and miraculously set free only to help the jailer return to oneness with God. Paul, like all missionaries, was sent into a world that was separated from God. He was called to unite people with God and with each other. He was called to bring us into one. His witness brings us into one with God and with each other.
John’s visions in his letter of Revelation serves this same purpose. We heard God beckoning us to come to him. God wants us to come and drink of the water of life. God wants us to know He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” God wants us to be free of our anxieties over uncertainties in this world. This world is constantly changing and there is great uncertainty but God doesn’t want us to be anxious. God wants us to know the peace and serenity that can be found in faith in Jesus. God wants us to know true and everlasting peace! God wants us to live like we’ve never lived before.
Why else would God send the Son into the world? God sends the Son into the world to give us new life, eternal life. God sends the Son into the world to help bring us into oneness with Him. We heard this in Jesus’ prayer as recounting by John. Jesus prayed, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” We are given the glory of the Father through the Son. We are given eternal life through the Son. We become one with the Father through the Son. Everything God says and does for us is to bring us into oneness with Him and with each other. Like Lennon, Jesus helps us to imagine an existence without division…a reality without separation. Not that Lennon was Jesus but he certainly channeled a basic teaching of Jesus. Jesus lived and died and was resurrected so that we might be one—one in hope, one in love, and…one in Christ.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.