More culture this week the Globes touring production of Henry V at the Playhouse. This featured Jamie Parker playing the warrior king.
I tried hard but I kept seeing Scripps, the character he plays in the Alan Bennett film The History Boys. Does his teacher know he is invading France? I kept thinking.
Henry V is the play which begins with the chorus (i.e. the narrator) telling the audience (and I here I paraphrase Shakespeare): No special effects tonight, folks youll just have to use your imagination.
Sadly, my imagination wasnt really upto it. Seeing five archers on stage firing imaginary arrows at us wasnt quite the Agincourt I have grown to expect from Kenneth Branaghs definitive 1989 film.
What didnt help was the directors decision to keep the house lights up, so that not only could we see them but that they could see us.
Which I found slightly unnerving. I tried hard not to catch the eye of King Henry as he gave his famous band of brothers speech.
Having said that, imagination is truly a wonderful gift from our creator God as we may experience life apart from our five senses. How else could we be transported back 600 years from Liverpool L1 1EL to northern France?
Imagination, very simply, is at the heart of what it means to be human – how we learn and develop as individuals. We are able to envisage a whole variety of scenarios I guess, thats how we worry. It may never happen but we can still imagine everything going pear-shaped just as painfully as in real life. It was Colin Urquhart who gave us False Expectations Appearing Real.
However, it is the right use of our imagination which is key to our development as disciples of Jesus. It is where the key battles are fought and where we apart from God are the only witness. The answer is to decide each day to invite God to be at the centre of our imagination.
Is your imagination of God starved? asked the classic Christian writer, J Oswald Sanders. Commenting on Isaiah 40:26 (Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:?who created all these?) Sanders writes:
The people of God in Isaiah’s day had starved their imagination by looking on the face of idols, and Isaiah made them look up at the heavens, that is, he made them begin to use their imagination aright.
Looking at the stars seems to be one of Gods favourite means of stimulating our imagination, as Abraham to name just one person challenged to look skywards so that he would wonder.
And of course Jesus aims to use our imagination aright, as with his parables. Just picture this, he asks. Furthermore he aims to stretch our imagination in order to increase our faith. Just imagine that mountain over there moving! Well, it will if you have faith in Gods power and goodness. Everything is possible for one who believes. Mark 9:23
So we need to give the Holy Spirit full access to our imagination so that we can picture what God can do, to see and to seize the opportunity. We need to learn to dream. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as prophesised by Joel using his imagination.
But having said all that, our imagination can only go so far. It is not just that we dare not imagine what God can do, we are simply unable to go beyond our human parameters. So lets give the final word to the apostle Paul:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20