For as long as we can remember, the ability to see has been understood as a divine gift. From the snake in the garden to the eye of Horus, from the “see-ers” of the Old Testament to the “light of the world” in the New, the opening of blind eyes has been amongst the most pressing themes of the human condition – and its hope. Underpinning every other hope, according to the Hebrew prophets, was the promise that the Spirit of the Creator would dwell amongst humankind. And the prophet Amos powerfully associated this outpouring of divine Spirit with one distinct characteristic: we would be endowed with ‘sight’: Young men would see visions, old men dreams; even maidservants and menservants – irrespective of age, class or gender, the mark of a Spirit-filled people was the renewed ability to see.
Imagine the surprise of a watching world when a rural fisherman stood up and declared that Amos’ prophecy had now happened – to him and his friends! On the day that the nation was celebrating the anniversary of its constitution, Peter and 120 other disciples of Jesus were claiming – not only the resurrection of their leader – but their receiving of The Spirit that gave them sight again.
This new sight was evidenced by the renewed imagination with which they engaged their world. They had a fresh vision for community in a world of tribal allegiances and class divisions. They engaged sickness with outrageous new possibilities in mind. They traveled across the empire drawing brand new maps of a different Kingdom. They wrote letters redefining friendship even amongst slaves and masters. They made, collected and distributed money according to vastly different economic principles. They rejuvenated and reframed their practice of existing religion within entirely new paradigms. They moved with a freedom and a compassion that suggests they were ‘seeing’ things that the rest of the empire was blind to.
As historians like Rodney Stark detail, we now stand on the heritage of that insight: universal healthcare, scientific thought, free market capitalism, liberal democracy, social equality – and the list could go on. However, we are not only beneficiaries of what they built. We are also heirs of their insights. And apparently, inheritors of the same Spirit that bestowed upon them that sight.
But where will we use this gift? When will we unpack it and exercise it?
How will we practice navigating the world with eyes wide open instead of blundering through the narrow aisles and neon signs of consumer commodities and social ladders?
One thing is clear: If we limit our thoughts to within the walls of our churches, our palette for imagination will be confined to preserving and embellishing the bones of the great traditions of those churches. If on the other hand, we submit our quest to gainful employment or even entrepreneurial advancement, our sights will be blinkered to the dimensions of the boxes and ladders already created for us by our society.
What is needed is a fresh imagination for human flourishing in the context that you are now placed. We must recover the practice of imagination from the futurists and the artists – as though imagination were a dreamy flourish for the professional creative. And instead of staring at the clouds and trying to ‘come up’ with something creative, we are invited to join the long line of children of Abraham, taking ownership on the ground that our feet stand upon, looking up at the stars brimming with promised community members.
At Seed, this means that we begin with the timeless value of your unique context and identity. Instead of avoiding our personal mess and mistakes, we believe that our chaos is actually the fertile ground we need for creative imagining. Instead of imagining an idealised version of our lives, from which we could theoretically leverage more influence or money, we believe in exercising our imagination within the immediacy of the place where God has placed you presently. And It is here, that the rich heritage of the Biblical tradition comes alive with possibility.
Begin with your home: What is one small corner in which the hope of resurrection might shine in? Could there be one conversation in the week through which the gracious character of Jesus might be felt? Can you imagine one particular chore that you might be able to perform with the same energy and compassion that Jesus had when he washed Peter’s feet?
These small moments in our lives are waiting to be reimagined and reinvested with meaning and purpose. And as we practice seeing our earth with heaven close at hand, our eyes grow wider and our practice stronger.
And soon, with practice, could we not reimagine dark corners of our society? Could we not redefine conversations in boardrooms and therapy sessions and construction sites? Could we not imagine chores – hospitality, banking, manufacturing – performed with fresh energy and compassion?
The truth is, we as a collective, cannot imagine contexts that we do not know. But you, as an individual can incubate a vision of our unique context, that perhaps might be a sign that the Spirit of the Creator God has not abandoned that context, but is intent on filling it afresh with His image – even with you.
By Tim Goh, Co-Founder Seed Melbourne.