The Giver

The Giver is a 1993 American young adult dystopian novel by Lois Lowry. The society has eliminated pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan that has also eradicated imagination. The Community lacks any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.

As I prepare for my World Communion sermon tomorrow (October 1) it feels like I serve in a colorless, memoryless world, that has forgotten who it is, and, therefore what it must do. I find myself serving communion to a world, and, to a lesser extent, a congregation, that is modest in its expectations, limited in its energy, tentative in its hope. In other words, we lack any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.

Therefore, as I prepare my pastoral sermon, I realize that, tomorrow at least, I will need to be a prophet, not a pastor:

“The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. The same consciousness that makes it possible to implement anything and everything is the one that shrinks imagination because imagination is a danger. Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one.” Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

Our world has lost hope because they cannot imagine a different world from the dystopian world in which they imagine they live. They live in a world of sameness where hope is an aberration because they cannot imagine a world any different from their world. It would be absurd to do so. It would be fanciful to do so. “Hope, on one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts. Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretensions of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question. . .”

So what I intend to do tomorrow is to put on my prophetic hat and offer an alternative reality. I will make the bold claim that Christ is the Giver. This bold assertion will be difficult for my congregation to accept. We are upper middle-class Presbyterians; we are the givers. But if this thing is going to work tomorrow, this communion-thing, it really has to be the Lord’s Supper and He alone is the Giver. We have to accept His grace. We have to stand again at the foot of the cross and accept the gift we could not earn, did not deserve, but is given to us anyway. “The cross is the assurance that effective prophetic criticism is done not by an outsider but always by one who must embrace the grief, enter into the death, and know the pain of the criticized one.”

Tomorrow, then, we gather to blow the hopelessness of the world apart! We will make claims that are powered by the imagination.   We dare to hope that we can change, indeed, that our whole world can change. We will begin with the astounding truth that our God loves us, our Savior died for us, our Holy Spirit empowers us. We will color our world with hope. We will leave that place tomorrow with renewed expectation. Bold assertions. Bold hope. A new tomorrow! Let us begin . . . “On the night that our Lord was betrayed . . . He took bread.”

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