25th Sunday after Pentecost — Nov. 14, 2021

Mark 13:1-8
Ordinary 25B; Proper 28

“We are in an imagination battle,” writes adrienne maree brown in her book “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.” “Imagination has people thinking they can go from being poor to a millionaire as part of a shared American dream. Imagination turns Brown bombers into terrorists and white bombers into mentally ill victims. Imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race as an indicator of capability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else’s imagination, and I must engage my own imagination in order to break free.”

Brown has teamed up with spoken word artist Walidah Imarisha to lead “visionary fiction” workshops to create strategies for activism and social change, and to compile an anthology of fantastical stories that imagine new, freer worlds without reinforcing dominant narratives of power. (See “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.”) Their goal is to engage more people, particularly marginalized people, in the imaginative work of creating social change. “One of the ways we perpetuate individualism is by ideating alone, literally coming up with ideas in solitude and then competing to bring them to life. Our workshops are designed to encourage collaborative ideation.”

In Mark’s “Little Apocalypse” at the beginning of chapter 13, Jesus invites the disciples into imaginative visioning. They sit together atop a mountain to view the landscape and learn about where God’s world-building is leading them. The signs of this new world are frightening — the destruction of the Temple, false prophets, wars, earthquakes famines. Readers are challenged to repent and get right with God before the end. But this apocalyptic vision also inspires hope — a new day, a new community and a new world are being birthed. Salvation is on the horizon.

I think I am more afraid of our lack of imagination, our resistance to change, to dreaming, to world-building with God, than an apocalyptic threat of the end times. We must be willing to participate in the birthing of a new age. We must be open to imagining new forms of community, new structures and systems of power, new ways of being the church.

“What we pay attention to grows,” writes Brown, encouraging readers to attend to patterns of resilience and adaptation in nature, patterns of connections and community in small towns and big cities, patterns of love and healing in families and friendships, patterns of generosity and grace between neighbors and strangers. Brown adds, “We are all the protagonists of what might be called the great turning, the change, the new economy, the new world.”

This Sunday, Jesus takes us to the mountaintop with his disciples to survey and attend to our present landscape. What do we notice? What patterns emerge? What would grow if we paid attention to it? “This is but the beginning…” Jesus says, inspiring us to imagine and hope for what is to come.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. How did this passage intrigue, disturb, challenge, comfort, encourage or inspire you?
  2. What inspires your imagination? When do you feel most creative?
  3. What patterns of creativity and adaptation do you notice in your church? What do you imagine these patterns growing into if you were to pay attention to them?

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