Brought back to the present with beautiful music from Peter Mayer in the midst of a busy week, workshop participants were centered for the start of William H. Lamar IV’s workshop, “The Holy Spirit: Source of Moral Imagination.” Lamar IV made clear from the very beginning, “For me, there is no imagination without the Spirit.”
After his introduction, workshop participants engaged in Lectio Divina, a time of contemplation to counter a world petrified of silence. Making space and silence for God to open up passages we already know because “familiarity is a pathway for contempt.” Reading together Luke 4:18-19 (“one of progressive Christianity’s greatest hits list”), Lamar IV encouraged participants to listen to the text three times: first letting the water of the words come and wash over you, next listening to words or phrases that surface, and finally listening for what God might be saying to you and your community. It was a moment of replenishment in a busy week and lively discussion followed as participants turned to their neighbors to share what came up for them.
Together participants were flexing the muscles of moral imagination through this activity by tending to the needs of their internal selves. But what is moral imagination exactly? According to Jonathan Jones quoted by Lamar IV, moral imagination is the intuitive ability to perceive ethical truths in the midst of chaos and a proper ordering of the soul which flows out to the commonwealth. Lamar IV acknowledged many pastors are doing ministry in the midst of chaos and must tend to their soul to do work for the world. “If our internal lives are disordered, then the commonwealth will be disordered.”
Lamar IV makes clear that the moral imagination of Jesus is sourced by Spirit and shaped by tradition (Isaiah 61:1-2- the spirit of the Lord God is upon me). How do preachers commune with the Spirit? Lamar IV used imagery to help participants understand the Spirit as source of imagination, “The Spirit is artist and we are canvas. If we want to produced something beautiful, we must be close to the artist and be willing to yield control.”
Concluding an engaging, energized session full of much conversation, laughter and deep truths, Lamar IV shared a story of his faithful grandfather who began every morning prayer at his church in Georgia with the truth, “We come as empty pitchers before a full fountain.” May all be filled for the work of inviting all to participate in the reign of God through preaching from a place of spirit-filled imagination.