Think outside the square

The other day, I read about the young American congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has made quite an impression since being elected. She is young, charismatic and articulate.

More than this, she stands aside from the norms of political debate, enthralling and futile as they are; she stands apart from the dictates of public opinion polls, and she offers policy suggestions that have substance.

The article noted that ‘Those who want to change the world can’t shape their ideas according to the conventional wisdom about what the public will accept.’

People’s hopes for the future are mostly conventional. Whenever our dreams are built on the foundation of what has worked in the past, the result will be conventional.

Convention is not a bad guide. However, it runs the risk of ignoring new possibilities. We live in a time when we need to discern new possibilities.

Ocasio-Cortez realises that and speaks to it.

In times past, it was prophets who discerned new possibilities.

Prophets were not people who peered into and predicted the future. They were people who saw the present in a new light, discerning what was coming to birth, and therefore spoke with authority about the best way into the future.

On Sunday, February 17 we have our Day of Dreaming. We will gather together and look to the future.

I ask you to put on your prophetic hats that day.

I don’t ask that we assume magical powers we don’t have. I suggest that we, ordinary people, every so often have extraordinary ideas.

Let me give an example:

Last Tuesday afternoon, I took a funeral for someone I did not know. I met the daughter only a couple of days before the service.

It quickly became evident that while there had been a church connection many years previously, it was no longer relevant, even to the deceased who was in her 90s.

So, I said at her funeral, ‘Truth be told, we don’t know what happens after death. Many religious people claim more than they can possibly know.’

I went on to speak of the Christian conviction that at the heart of life and death there is love. We don’t know a lot more than that.

Later, I invited people, in a moment of silence, to hold their memories of the deceased in the presence of God, however they conceive of God, or if they didn’t believe in God, in the presence of what they considered good and beautiful in life.

A young man, who looked like a surfer, came up to me afterwards and said, ‘That’s the first time at a funeral I’ve been given freedom of choice about what to believe. Thank you.’

It was a poignant comment.

I had spoken to his reality and, as it turned out, to the reality of others who were present.

Today, it’s clear that most people who attend funerals do not attend church. Nonetheless, the church frequently speaks as though everyone should be familiar with or, even better, part of a church.

At the funeral on Tuesday afternoon, by the grace of God, I was able to make a spiritual connection with the world as it is; not as it was or as some still wish it were.

Is there something to build on there? I’m not sure, but I think it’s an example of discerning what’s going on and therefore having something to offer.

Please join us for ‘The Day of Dreaming’ on Sunday 17th February and put on your prophetic hats – think outside the square!