Easter Sunday | St. Paul’s, Evansville | Joanna Benskin | 9 April 2023 | Jeremiah 31:1-6 | Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 | Acts 10:34-43 | John 20:1-18

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God of hope. Amen.

Happy Easter, friends! Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Today we come to the empty tomb with Peter and John. Today we meet Jesus with Mary Magdalene, and with her we proclaim the good news that Christ is risen. We proclaim the good news that resurrection is not just a singular miracle that happened to one person two thousand years ago; resurrection life is for us too. Today, hope meets us in the risen body of Jesus.

This hope ripples through our scriptures today. The Psalmist trusts in God and says, “I shall not die, but live.” The prophet Jeremiah proclaims God’s “everlasting love” and says, “the people who survived the sword have found grace in the wilderness.” In Acts, Peter preaches that the good news of Jesus’ risen life is for all people, not just a few.

The good news is that God’s love brings life. If you were here Good Friday, you heard the good news that God loves us so much that God is willing to die with us. The good news of Easter is that once that’s happened, God doesn’t stay dead, and God doesn’t want us to stay dead either.

The Good Friday story is that God is with us in the worst humanity can do; God is with us in suffering and injustice and death. The Easter story is that God turns suffering into joy, God delivers the oppressed from injustice, God transforms death into life. Jesus didn’t come only to meet us in this broken world, but to heal it and us, to bring life in the midst of death.

A line from a poem has been in my head for the last few weeks. It’s from “Spring Song” by Lucille Clifton. I came across this as I was gathering poems for the Lenten Quiet Day. Lucille Clifton says, “the world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.”

That’s a word of hope I need this Easter. “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” Because right now the future doesn’t always seem possible. We don’t know what will happen in our political system. We don’t know if we can find the collective will to stop gun violence. We don’t know if the wars that are raging now will ever come to an end. We don’t know if we’ll be able to avert ecological collapse and pass on a livable planet to the next generation.

And yet: “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The resurrection life that brings Jesus up from the tomb enfolds the whole cosmos. The world is turning; we’re not stuck. The world is turning in the body of Jesus. Maybe somehow, in a holy mystery, in a dazzling miracle, somehow Jesus’ body coming to life encompasses our own bodies, and the bodies of the dispossessed, and our whole broken planet with its waters and its wars and its myriad creatures.

In this holy mystery, we shall not die, but live, and declare the works of our God, whose mercy endures forever. In this miracle of resurrection, we find grace in the wilderness; we find life in the midst of death. In the risen body of Christ, we find hope even amid fears.

And friends, hope is itself a mystery and a miracle. Hope is not always easy in this world. And hope is so much more than just a positive attitude and an expectation that things will work out fine. Hope isn’t about ignoring what’s wrong with this world, but about the courage to imagine and act for a better world. Climate writer Rebecca Solnit says, “hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky… hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency.”

Hope is active. Hope is brave. Hope is revolutionary. Hope is what we need to be whole in the midst of terror; hope is what we need to change this world into a better one for ourselves and those who come after.

And in the resurrection, hope has a body. “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The hope of the resurrection is not a hope for our souls only (though it is that) but also for our bodies, and this hope meets us bodily. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus alive in the flesh. In our reading from Acts, when Peter proclaims the good news of resurrection in just a few sentences, he includes the detail that Jesus ate and drank with the disciples after rising from the dead. Peter testifies to Jesus physically eating and drinking as a resurrected body.

God made our bodies, and God came to us in a body, and God raised Jesus in that same body that was broken for us. Salvation meets us in these bodies of ours that have allergies and migraines, these bodies that break bones and lose limbs and get cancer, these bodies that age and die. Resurrection is for these brave, always beautiful, always breaking bodies that carry us as long as they can. God loves us in these bodies; God raises us to new life in these bodies.

When we gathered at the cross on Friday, we talked about how Good Friday means that God is on the side of those who get hurt the most when our world is off kilter, so much that Jesus is willing to die among them, to have his body treated as one of theirs. And today we celebrate the resurrection: Easter Sunday means that God will raise up everyone who suffers. Resurrection life is God’s deliverance for the poor in spirit and for those who mourn and for those whose bodies have been battered by the unfairness of this world.

That deliverance starts with the body of Jesus that can’t be held down by empire or hatred or even death. “The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The world is turning toward justice in the wounded body of Jesus. The world is turning toward freedom in the rising body of Jesus. The world is turning toward wholeness in the beloved body of Jesus.

And in the body of Jesus, we are turning too. 

In Jesus’ broken body, we turn toward forgiveness. In Jesus’ wounded body, we turn toward grace in the wilderness and deliverance from death. In Jesus’ rising body, we turn toward God’s everlasting love for us all. In Jesus’ lifegiving body, we turn toward a brave hope.

In the mysteries of the altar and the mysteries of Holy Week, we celebrate that we are somehow part of the crucified and risen body of Jesus. St. Paul says in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ… the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me.” St. Paul says in Romans that we are baptized into Christ’s death, and so “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In the church, we are the body of Christ, even as we eat the body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. St. Augustine says to people receiving communion, “Be what you see; receive what you are.” Sisters and brothers and siblings, we are the body of Christ.

“The world is turning in the body of Jesus, and the future is possible.” The world is turning in us, and the future is possible. We carry deliverance in our bodies. We carry grace in our bodies. We carry everlasting love in our bodies. We carry hope in our bodies, and the future is possible.

And friends, if we’re not ready for the tambourines and the dancing and the joy of risen life right now, if we’re too tired, if we’re too sad today—then all the more, this hope is for us. And we have time to come into it. We have fifty days of Easter. We have an eternity of God’s everlasting love. We’ll help each other. Another poet says, “leave comfort root-room.” Hope meets us wherever we are.

So friends, let us expect grace in the wilderness together this Easter season. Let us carry a brave hope in our bodies. Let us revel in God’s everlasting love for us. Let us walk in newness of life, as the resurrecting, lifegiving body of Christ. And as the world turns in the body of Jesus, let us find out together what future is possible. Amen.

The Second Sunday of Advent (Year W) | St. Paul’s, Evansville | Joanna Benskin | 4 December 2022 | Genesis 17:15-22 | Psalm 78:1-7 | Romans 8:18-25 | Luke 1:39-45

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God who fills us with your spirit calls us to carry hope in community.

This is our second week using A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church by the Rev. Dr. Wilda Gafney. So I’ll say something about this special resource to build on what Holly said last week, and then we’ll dig into today’s Gospel reading about Mary and Elizabeth’s visit.

So: A lectionary is a group of Bible readings picked out to use at certain times, such as the Sundays of the church year. We normally use one called the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of readings. With Bishop Jennifer’s permission, we’re using a different lectionary for the season of Advent. This one highlights the stories and perspectives of women in scripture, both in what passages are chosen to read and in and how Gafney translates them.

I really value this shift in perspective. While we believe that God loves all people and created all people in God’s image, human history has made it so that we tend to focus on some people’s stories and some people’s value above others. Because of the cultures and power dynamics that existed when it was written, the Bible tells a lot more men’s stories than women’s. That isn’t surprising.  

But what did surprise me is what Dr. Gafney found as she compared the whole Bible with the selections we normally use. She says: “women are even less well represented in [the lectionaries] than they are in the Biblical text.”

Proportionally, the ancient texts of the Bible spend more time with women than the parts that churches picked out in the 20th century to read together in worship. I would have hoped that as both our culture and our Church have learned to value women differently, our readings would reflect that shift, but alas, they don’t.

It turns out that we still have trouble valuing women and women’s stories in our Church. We still carry a lot of bias with us that we may not even recognize. And that means that sometimes we need to do some re-balancing in order to appreciate what God is doing in the world and in order to align ourselves more fully with God’s love for all of us.

So I invite conversation about the lectionary readings this Advent—I’d love to know how these readings are sitting with you, what you love about them, what lifts your spirit, what causes discomfort, and what questions arise for you.

In her introduction, Dr. Gafney describes the point of her women’s lectionaries for preaching. She says, “The task of preachers is to proclaim a word—of good news, of liberation, of encouragement, of prophetic power, of God-story, and sometimes, of lament, brokenness, and righteous rage. These lectionaries will provide a framework to do that and attempt to offer some balance to the register in which the word has often been proclaimed.”

So with that framework in mind, let’s turn to our Gospel. Let’s see what word of good news, what lifegiving piece of God’s story, what prophetic power we might find in today’s story of Mary and Elizabeth.

It’s a meeting of two cousins, two pregnant women, two people brought together to share a secret hope about what God is doing in the world. Elizabeth is old; like her ancestor Sarah, she had given up hope of carrying a child. Mary doesn’t have a husband, and her pregnancy is a scandal. Neither of them expected to be expecting this way.

But Mary and Elizabeth are God’s partners in changing the world. They are the mothers of salvation.

In Dr. Gafney’s commentary on today’s readings, she asks us to reconsider what bearing children means in the stories of women like Sarah, Mary, and Elizabeth. She notes that sometimes with scripture’s annunciation stories, we end up reading women as “incubators” who are mostly valuable because they give birth to important sons.

Dr. Gafney invites us to shift perspective and consider “the symbolism of children for a world that continues under God’s care no matter the present circumstances.” It’s a broader view of these annunciation stories. It’s not just that one woman here or there changes her own standing by having a miracle baby, it’s that welcoming a child implies trust that God’s love will continue into the future. Welcoming a child brings people together to nurture and adore and teach and provide and rejoice.   

When I start to think in this direction this Advent here at St. Paul’s, I reflect on the hope God offers us, and on the gift of community that spans generations. We are part of the same hope that Mary and Elizabeth share in today’s Gospel, the hope that God is changing the world and lifting up the lowly. We are part of the same community that began with Mary and Elizabeth, the community that is filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoices to welcome Jesus among us.

So today I invite us to consider how blessed Mary and St. Elizabeth might be our teachers, and what this beautiful moment between them might have to offer us. Mary and Elizabeth keep hope alive, and they do it together in community, in holy friendship.

I invite us to reflect today on hope and community. I wonder where you find hope most difficult to sustain, and where you find it flourishing and blooming on its own. I wonder how you nourish the hope you have, and who helps you carry it. And if you are struggling to find any hope in this season, Holly or I can sit down with you and see if we can find some together.

And I wonder how community, here at St. Paul’s or elsewhere, has given you joy and strength. I wonder where you have been called to holy friendships. I wonder whose heart leaps for joy when you come into the room, and who gets that response from you. I wonder how you are holding hope in community.

That’s our call in the church this Advent: to carry hope in community. And it’s a difficult calling. There is a lot of bad news in the world; there’s a lot of uncertainty about money and politics and the climate; there’s a lot of hate; there are a lot of very real reasons to worry about the future. This is true for us, and it was true for Mary and Elizabeth as Jewish women living in an empire that hated them and would eventually murder both of their children. The world’s violence is real, and there are reasons to be afraid.

But Mary and Elizabeth held hope anyway. Not knowing what would come after—not yet knowing either death or resurrection—they rejoiced together in that moment. They carried God’s hope for the future in their own bodies.

And we can too, as we find our own callings. Mary and Elizabeth were called to carry God’s hope in the world as mothers, and that might be part of the call for some. Not all of us are able to bear children, and not all of us who are able will choose to; there are many other ways to embody hope.

We can practice hope by using our imaginations to envision a better world and using our actions to bring that world a little closer. We could practice hope by caring for children and young people (whether or not they’re our own children), listening to what they care about, and acting in line with hope for their future.

We can practice hope by sharing from the abundance we have, in trust that there will be enough for us in the times to come. We can practice hope by caring for “this fragile earth, our island home” well, even when we don’t know what happens next.

We hold hope by doing it. We don’t have to feel optimistic all the time or ignore our fear and grief in order to do hope. Activist Mariame Kaba likes to say that “Hope is a discipline.” It’s a practice. It’s worth struggling for. And we hold onto hope not by squashing down all the bad feelings, but by acting on hope together, even amid uncertainty. Paul says we hope for what we do not see. It’s an act of faith.

And for Mary and Elizabeth, hope was an act of defiance, an act of rebellion. Hope in God’s salvation meant that the empire wasn’t the ultimate authority; another regime was on the way. It meant liberation was possible for everyone. It means that God’s transforming love reaches everywhere, and the empire no longer gets to tell us who is unworthy, who gets thrown away, who goes hungry, who gets silenced. It means casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly, as Mary will say.  

In this family visit between two pregnant women in Palestine, hope was a conspiracy. Have we talked about where the word “conspiracy” comes from? In Latin, “con” is “with” or “together” and “spirare” is “to breathe.” So conspiring is breathing together. Mary and Elizabeth are breathing together in this moment. And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; God’s own breath is breathing right there with them. The Holy Spirit is in on the conspiracy. The Holy Spirit is part of this shared moment of dangerous joy.

God is present, helping Mary and Elizabeth to carry hope, and God draws them together in community. They need each other. They need to take this moment and breathe together in order to hold the hope God has entrusted to them. They need to strengthen and uplift each other with inspired joy now in order to face what’s coming. Carrying this hope is so difficult that neither one of them is asked to do it alone; God calls Mary and Elizabeth to a holy friendship.  

Last week we read the story of how the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce Jesus’ birth; let’s not forget the part of that story where Gabriel tells Mary that Elizabeth is also pregnant. The news of Jesus’ birth—this message that upends Mary’s life and promises to transform the whole world—it also includes this gentle guidance towards community. Gabriel tells Mary: “Elizabeth is pregnant too.” And that means that when Mary is called to a revolutionary hope, called to do something impossibly brave, she is also called to community. She is not alone.

The angel Gabriel tells Mary where to find her next co-conspirator. Joseph will become a co-conspirator along with Elizabeth. And eventually, Peter and John and Mary Magdalene and all of Jesus’ followers will join in. They will all breathe with Mary and help her to bear the hope of Jesus’ coming reign. And so will we. Elizabeth was the first member of this community to breathe with Mary and the Holy Spirit, and now we’re all part of it.

We carry this hope together in community. God calls us to a dangerous and difficult hope—and God calls us into community to make it possible. God calls us to holy friendship. God calls us to care for each other in grief and lift each other up in joy, and that is where we find the strength we need.

God calls us to breathe together with the Holy Spirit. And in that act of breathing together, we claim our moments of peace amid the chaos; we find what it takes to carry hope through this world against all odds.     

Friends, in this Advent season of watching and waiting, I pray that we will find that space to breathe with the Holy Spirit and with our co-conspirators. I pray that we will find the community we need to hold hope. I pray that we will find grace to follow our teachers Mary and Elizabeth, and that with them we will carry God’s hope in our bodies and breathe with the Spirit more and more deeply.


A 15th-century German engraving of The Visitation (Mary and Elizabeth’s visit) accessed through the Met Gallery and in the Public Domain. Master ES (German, active ca. 1450–67) The Visitation, 15th century German, Engraving; sheet: 6 3/16 x 4 11/16 in. (15.7 x 12 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1922 (22.83.2)

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

St. Paul’s, Evansville | Joanna Benskin | 29 May 2022 | Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God of resurrection hope and possibility.

Good morning, friends. Welcome to the seventh and last Sunday of the Easter season. Easter is a season of hope and joy in Jesus’ resurrection. And yet, this time around, Easter has also been a season of mourning, a season of violence, a season of uncertainty. How do we celebrate resurrection when the world is on fire? Where can we find a word of hope in times like this? 

Throughout this season of Easter, we’ve been reading snippets of the book of Revelation. Our Gospels and Psalms and readings from Acts have had so much to offer these weeks that we haven’t really dug into our readings from Revelation yet.

I’d like to do that today, and see if we can find a word of resurrection hope in this strange last book of the Bible.

Sometimes churches like ours avoid talking about the book of Revelation, and sometimes for good reasons. It’s a really strange book filled with visions of destruction and re-creation. It’s confusing. There’s a lot of violence in it. Some of us grew up in churches that used Revelation to support political conspiracy theories, or to justify wars, or to say that certain groups of people were going to go to hell.  

Some of us are wary of the book of Revelation because we’ve seen it used for harm, and we don’t want to see any more of that. Some of us just don’t know what to make of it, if we even come across it. Even St. Jerome, that deeply scholarly church father, says that this book “contains as many mysteries as it contains words.” So, if we’re not sure what to do with this book, we’re in good company.

But I think we need the book of Revelation today—for some of the same reasons the very first readers of Revelation needed it. Like them, we live in a scary, violent world. Like them, we face uncertainty for the future. Like them, we need hope that with God, another world is possible.

The book of Revelation uses imagination to challenge the world that exists, and the powers that rule it. The book of Revelation says that the way things are isn’t the way things always have to be.

It’s full of vivid, sometimes haunting images: a stone inscribed with a secret name; a rainbow like an emerald; a sea of glass; a pale horse whose rider is Death; the sainted dead crying out for justice from underneath the altar; seven thunders speaking unwritable words.

There’s a celestial woman fleeing from a dragon, and the earth itself helps her get away. There’s a terrifying beast. There’s a war in heaven, and a tree whose leaves will heal the world; there’s a city that never closes its gates.

In today’s reading, right at the end of the book, the people and the Spirit call on Jesus to come and bring a new world into being. And everyone is invited to come and claim a gift of water from the very river of God to quench all thirst.

Our readings over the past six weeks have hit some of the highlights of the book, and have left out some of the more disturbing parts. Some of the images in Revelation are honestly horrifying, and some of them are strangely beautiful, and some of them are just strange. This is a book that requires care and discernment, and sometimes a strong stomach.

Even some of the early Christians who decided what got to be in the Bible weren’t always sure about Revelation—one of them (Dionysius of Alexandria) said that it has to be read allegorically in order to be in line with the truth of the church’s teachings.

That is, we have to use a creative lens to see the deeper truth behind the images rather than taking them as a literal description of either the past or the future. There are references to the Roman Empire and the realities of power and suffering and hope that early Christians faced at the time the book was written, but all of it is told through double meanings and mysteries.

This is a difficult book. And I think it’s a deeply necessary book in this moment we face now. Y’all, the world is on fire. It’s bad out there. Kids and teachers were killed at their school this week in Uvalde, and the people who should have protected them didn’t. The week before that, Black moms and dads and grandmas in Buffalo trying to feed their families were killed, targeted because of their race.

It’s a violent, wildly unfair world. And we’ve let the most vulnerable bear the worst of it. It seems like the people with the most power to make a difference are doing the least. A lot of us are grieving, and a lot of us are angry.

Sometimes it’s hard to even imagine how real change could happen from here, now that we’ve let it go this far.

And this is where Revelation comes in. It turns out, we aren’t the first ones to feel this way. It turns out, the world has been on fire before. These early Christians who first heard and read the book of Revelation lived in an empire that didn’t really want them to live at all. They lived in violent times. They faced deep-rooted injustice. They didn’t know what the future would hold.

The powers that existed seemed so total, so final, so crushing. And the book of Revelation gave them hope that someday all those powers that oppressed them, all those evils that seemed so obvious and all-encompassing—someday the whole thing would come crashing down.

Someday the dragon would fall from the sky. Someday the all-powerful beast that had hurt so many people would fall into the ocean like a boulder. Somehow, the earth itself would help the faithful to survive.

Revelation gave them a vision of a new world where miraculous trees flourish, and the martyrs are gathered under the altar, and every cry for justice is heard, and every tear is wiped away. And in that world, everyone who is thirsty can drink the water of life that flows from God as a free gift.  

Another world is possible. The evils that exist in the world we know aren’t inevitable, and they aren’t forever. Transformation is coming. In Revelation, we learn that it’s possible to fight the monsters.

It’s like what the English writer G.K. Chesterton says about children and fairy tales. When people worried that these stories would be too scary for kids to read, he said dragons and monsters aren’t new to most children. Young people already know about those forces in our world that are deeply cruel and frighteningly powerful. (He said that before kids even had to do active shooter drills.)

Chesterton says that what fairy tales do, though, is teach young people the truth that all of these scary things they already see can be fought. That there are heroes who can take on the dragons. That even the biggest monsters can come crashing down when we stand up to them together. 

That’s what the book of Revelation can do for us, whatever our age: It can show us that the monsters in this world, the systems that grind people up, don’t have the last word. It can show us that God’s beautiful dream is wider and deeper and richer and stronger than the ways this world can hurt us.

And I think that might also be why the book of Revelation has so often been hijacked and used for small projects of exclusion. Because the message that another world is possible is a dangerous message, and a lot of us aren’t ready to hear it.

Sometimes I’m not ready to hear it; sometimes it would be easier to think that all the broken systems are immovable than to actually start figuring out how to move them. Some of us think we’re doing okay in world as it is, and we’re not sure where we’d fit into this other world that is possible. Transformation can be scary.

So sometimes it’s been easier for churches to read Revelation as a book about who gets excluded, or a book about wars on the other side of the world, or a detailed schedule of the End Times—instead of a book about hope, instead of a book about how no evil is inevitable, a book about how resistance is possible, a book about how God’s love changes everything.  

That’s a lot. I’m not always ready for that. The church isn’t always ready for that kind of transformation, even though it’s what we signed up for. We sign up for transformation every time we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  

But a lot of people and groups and structures in this world are actively against transformation if it’s a threat to the way things are, a threat to making money, a threat to the same people staying in charge. It turns out that the folks who want to sell $8 bottles of water at the concert don’t like it when there’s a water fountain, much less a whole river of life flowing from the throne of God as a free gift.  

And the sad truth is that there are people who make a lot of money from the same setup that leads to school shootings, and they spend a lot of money to keep it that way. And there are people who only get to be famous and powerful by stirring up white people’s fear of everybody who’s not white. And sadly, even those of us who mean well sometimes hold onto the way things are because we’re afraid of what we might lose if another world were possible.

And the folks who do well off of these violent systems want us to think that the alternatives are too scary, and that the world we know is the only option. But it’s not.

Much like the conquering society called the Borg in Star Trek, the powers that oppress in this world would like us to believe that “resistance is futile.” But it isn’t.

Revelation tells us that we will not be assimilated. Revelation tells us that the inevitability of harmful patterns is a lie. Another world is possible. Another world is on the way. And imagining that world is our first step toward living in it.

The author of Revelation dared to imagine a world where the Roman Empire itself would fall into the ocean like a boulder. That must have seemed almost unthinkable at the time. No one knew any system except the Roman Empire. Sure, it was bad for lot of conquered peoples, it even crucified people, but the Empire built the roads and wrote the laws and ran the whole world’s economy.

What else could there be? What would the world even be like without it? And yet, it didn’t last forever; the Empire fell, and another world grew in its place.

So, I wonder what it would be like for us to be this bold in our imagination. Can we imagine a world without mass shootings?

In a video message about the shooting in Uvalde, the theologian Kelly Brown Douglas asked: “When will we be able to expand our moral imaginary enough so that we can imagine a world where all of our children are safe?” She challenges us to stretch and imagine what that would be like.

Douglas writes more about the importance of imagination in her book Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter. There, Douglas says that one of the reasons why our country has so much trouble moving toward racial justice is that we haven’t yet learned out to imagine it.

Our country has a warped “moral imaginary” where judgments about race are embedded. We have to learn how to tell our history in a different way and learn how to imagine our future in a different way to reshape that moral imaginary and make change possible.

She says that we are accountable to God’s future. We see glimpses of God’s future in Revelation and in the prophets and the saints. We see it in Jesus’ life and teachings. God draws us onward toward that future, that possible world, where we feast together and live as one in God’s love.

And maybe sometimes we don’t agree on what kind of world would meet God’s dream, about how God calls us to act in this moment—and then we can talk about that, and we can work to strengthen each other’s imaginations. I hope that you’ll tell me when you notice I’m dreaming too small or acting out of fear instead of love, and I’ll try to do the same in this community. We learn as we go, and we hold each other accountable to God’s future as best we can see it.

Kelly Brown Douglas is doing this kind of accountability. She calls on us, and specifically those of us in mostly white churches, to expand our imaginations about what’s possible. She invites us to join with her and other Black theologians and visionaries to see the world differently.

Douglas invites us to imagine a world where Black lives matter—and not only matter, but are treated as sacred.

Like the author of Revelation, Kelly Brown Douglas invites us to challenge the patterns of our world that seem most obvious and inevitable. She calls on us to become part of the resurrection hope God brings by imagining differently.

So, I wonder what kind of worlds we can imagine together.

Can we imagine a world where Black lives are held as sacred? Can we imagine a world where children are safe in school? Can we imagine a world where we find some other way to solve our problems besides more guns and more prisons and more locks and more walls?

Could we dare to imagine a world with no prisons or police at all? Could we imagine a world where everyone has enough and some to share?

What about a world where transgender youth are embraced as the radiant creations of God they are and supported in being fully themselves, wherever they live?

Could we imagine a world without the military industrial complex? Could we imagine a world where we don’t burn fossil fuel, and we help the earth heal?

Could we dare to imagine about a world where no one is overworked and everyone has all the time they want for rest and creativity and play?

Maybe it seems impossible right now, but I wonder where it could lead if we dare to imagine a different world. I wonder where it could lead if we tried to dream God’s dream together in faith that transformation is possible.  

I wonder where it could lead if we told our neighbors and our senators and our council members and our children and our parents and our friends and our enemies about the worlds we dare to imagine. I wonder where it could lead if we acted as if another world were possible.

Friends, let’s find out.

Let’s find out what happens when we carry the wild and wonderful hope of Revelation with us: that another world is possible.

Let’s find out what happens when we are accountable to God’s future, and we hear each other’s dreams.

Let’s find out what happens when we drink deeply from the water of life that God gives us in love, and when we offer that water of life as a gift to anyone else who is thirsty in this world.  

Let’s find out what happens when we come into our own as the keepers of a God-breathed, precious, fierce, dangerous, hope that empowers us to face down the dragons of this world.

Let’s find out what happens when we ask God to raise our imaginations from the dead.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

The image is a medieval (ca. 1330) illustration of the scene in Revelation where a celestial woman is given wings and aided by the earth to escape the dragon. (You can see more amazing illustrations of Revelation from this manuscript here: )