The song “Imagine” by John Lennon is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”. More than 200 artists have performed or covered the song. Among more recent performances include the television show ‘Glee’ where the song was sung using sign language. As the song is ‘sung’, members of the glee club come forward to participate and sing and sign as one.
The words of the song are familiar: imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people, livin’ for today. Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace…
Taken literally, the song was controversial. Some church people found the line ‘no religion too’ offensive. Of course, a world without religion would mean that I would be out of a job. Then again, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its foundation in religion. There is a history of religious-based conflict in Ireland. We are also aware of conflicts between Islamic traditions in some regions. What does it mean that religion is one of those things for which we have justified killing and dying? “Imagine all the people, living life in peace”
If we are willing to look beyond the specific words, we can find that the song challenges us to reflect on those things that are problematic and divisive in our world while inviting us to dream of something better. The song invites us to dream of a world where there is peace. A world where there is fellowship. A world where there is sharing. A world where we live as one.
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land... And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Today we celebrate the Reign of Christ. We know from his life, death, and resurrection, that Jesus was no ordinary ruler. He turned the world upside down making the first last and the last first. He taught that we cannot worship mammon, that is money, and God. He took five loaves and two fish and made a meal for five thousand people. He washed the feet of those who would abandon, deny, and betray him. He broke the barriers of religion talking with and healing those outside the Jewish community. He upended social protocols and honoured women. He challenged leaders to respect the dignity of every human being. He provided an example of how it is possible to live in unity, compassion, understanding, and love.
To celebrate the Reign of Christ, then, is to imagine a world where the leadership of Jesus becomes the framework on which we relate to each other, to God, and to Creation. To honour the Reign of Christ is to be open to hearing anew God’s message to our world – to let go of those things that distract, distort, and undermine our relationships. To look past division. To look past greed. To look past pride and power. To live humbly with one another as siblings. To celebrate the Reign of Christ is to not only imagine, but it is also to continually seek ways to embody that reign in our lives.
To celebrate the Reign of Christ is to not only imagine, but it is also to continually seek ways to embody that reign in our lives. What might this embodiment look like? Perhaps, the Reign of Christ is like a vigil offered in memory of those who lives were shattered by violence for living fully who they were. Love surrounds the community at this vigil, shining a light into the darkness and proclaiming: All are valid, All are valued, All are loved. Imagine all the people living life in peace.
Perhaps, the Reign of Christ is like a post on Facebook that invites people to share girls’ clothing with those in need. The post reaches more than 10,000 people and inspires donations. Imagine all the people sharing all the world.
Perhaps the Reign of Christ is revealed in a community of faith that is willing to tell a different story – one that doesn’t separate, judge, or push away. One that affirms, supports, and advocates on behalf of those who need to know that they matter. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.
Today we celebrate the Reign of Christ. As we worship, so shall we live. With commitment to embody this message, let us pray as we sing together: Imagine.