From the Daily Office Lectionary for Wednesday in the week of Proper 10B (Pentecost 7, 2015)
Mark 2:14 ~ “As [Jesus] was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.”
This is one of those mornings when what I read in the appointed Scriptures dovetails so nicely with something I read in the news (or in this case on a friend’s Facebook page) that I can hardly believe it. I don’t often read the Episcopal Cafe blog, but a colleague posted a link to yesterday’s notice there of comments by a Baptist preacher (pastor of a megachurch in Dallas, Texas) when interviewed on Fox & Friends (a show I admit to never ever watching). I linked to a clip of his interview and, sure enough, just as reported in the Episcopal Cafe headline, this fellow said that liberal churches “are following the Jesus of their imagination rather than the Jesus of the Bible.” ~ It occurred to me that since at least 33 A.D. not a single human being who follows Jesus as Lord has done anything differently. Levi (who is sometimes also identified as Matthew) and his colleagues “got up and followed” Jesus, a real flesh-and-blood guy whom they could reach and touch and with whom they could eat, walk, talk, cry, laugh, and tell jokes. Since his Ascension, however, not one other person has been able to do that. We follow a “Jesus of the imagination,” just like the Baptist preacher said. Even the Baptist preacher follows a “Jesus of the imagination.” ~ To start off, we follow a Jesus of the imaginations of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and the other writers of the New Testament. These men (any women there?) like every writer of every genre of literature made use of imagination in setting pen to paper (or parchment or velum or whatever) to tell their stories. Then each reader employs his or her own imagination in bringing to life in his or her mind the characters and events of the story. The Gospels and other documents of the New Testament are not verbatim histories; they are personal stories infused with imagination and read with imagination and, as a result, we all follow “the Jesus of [our] imagination.” We can’t help it. ~ It is when one comes to that realization that it is possible to abandon dogma, bigotry, and ignorance, to enter into real conversation with Scripture, and to actually engage with and follow Jesus. Then, and only then, can a follower of Jesus encounter and engage with others in real dialog. ~ One is tempted to note that, in a very real way, even our encounters with, our following of “real-life flesh-and-blood” human beings are encounters with imagination! Our imaginations filter, color, and influence every interpersonal encounter we experience. So, my advice to my Baptist colleague: stop denying and start using your imagination.