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It has been a difficult set of weeks. We have faced sin and death in our lives, in our community, and in our world. Fear has come calling, terror has visited, and despair wants to settle in. It is normal to want to build walls, lock doors, and hit back.

We have arrived at church looking for hope and it has been hard to find! There we have been reminded of what we have been living through phone notifications, website updates, and the daily news. The texts of the season made incarnate and thus difficult to hear. We come looking for hope, for a word of the Lord, for the promises of Christmas and instead we are reminded that we must experience the disorientation of exile in order to be able to experience the reorientation of salvation.

Exile is being a stranger in a strange land. Exile forces us to look at our shaping – assumptions, presuppositions, and worldview -with suspicion. We must be suspicious because exile shapes us in the ethos of the false self that serves the purposes of a self-centered and self-serving dominant narrative – a narrative of fear, exclusion, and enmity.

Hopeful imagination reorients us and shows us the pathway for our return home. The pathway is paved by repentance, by the change of our hearts and minds, from the dominant narrative into the alternative narrative of God’s kin-dom. A narrative rooted in love, healing, and justice; a narrative of safety, embrace, and reconciliation. This narrative is centered in the person of Jesus Christ.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann reminds us that we develop a hopeful imagination by studying the:

themes, metaphors, and dynamics which give new life to the tradition, which summon to faith in a fresh way, and which create hope for a community so deeply in crisis, that it might have abandoned the entire enterprise of faith. This literature of realism and candor referred the loss to God and thereby released energy, courage, and passion in the community.

from Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile, 3

For the last few weeks we have struggled together realistically and with much candor. We have faced the realities of our current needs for salvation. We have heard the groans of creation and of our participation in structures of sin and death.

We have also been called to prepare the way. The hindrances to salvation have been lifted. The community does not have to live in denial, fear, and anxiety. Instead we are to allow for the Spirit to change our hearts and life. In very real ways we have rehearsed what it means to refer all of our struggles, insecurities, fears, prejudices, and injustices to God.

Now that we have turned over our sin-full practices as individuals and as a community our hearts are open to the coming of the Christ. Our souls ready to receive the gift of grace, the soil for God’s kingdom in us and in the world bursting with possibility!

So this weekend we begin rehearsing the story of a God who becomes one of us. A God who chose not to abandon us and creation choosing instead to come to our rescue. This weekend we begin to rehearse the hope for a peace-full world. We come recognizing that peace requires sacrifice, requires practice, requires our participation in life with God.

As we sing songs of praise this weekend and as we hear the story told again may we develop a hopeful imagination for the promised future. May we allow our reality check to fill us with energy, courage, and passion. May we come together as a community of believers to be peace makers in the world!