This last week I’ve been reflecting on play.
There’s been a number of dimensions to this. Firstly, in these recessional times is it not high time to deconstruct the Protestant work ethic and find value in other aspects of life? Secondly, how to we respond to the emphasis on imagination, play and gaming in postmodern culture? Thirdly, is there a place for playfulness in religion?
Now, just off the cuff I would answer these three questions with: yes, with imagination and yes.
But I pause … what would God say? In the scriptures, where is imagination, where is play?
Well, here’s some samples:
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 3:20-21)
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” (Zechariah 8:4-6)
The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:7-9)
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. (Pslam 33:3)
And my conclusion? Imagination, play and prophecy are highly interlinked. Again and again, play is linked to song and joy and celebration. Again and again they are associated with the question, what would the world look like if justice and harmony reigned instead of injustice and discord? Again and again we are invited to dream dreams and trust the God who transcends our imaginations. And more, our imaginations are to be unleashed and extended by God’s imagination.
Approached this way, theology is an act of imagination, eucharist is an act of play. We are called to act as if the impossible is indeed possible. So, imagination a new story, play a new song, this is the way of Jesus.