During the summer, I led a training in the personal, and practical, application of Appreciative Inquiry. As I’ve said many times, Appreciative Inquiry is a method for managing change that emphasizes carrying the best of the past into the present and future. It is a powerful methodology, but one that requires a bit of a “paradigm shift” for many of us (since we seem to default to trying to fix the worst of the past). One of the tools that was part of the Appreciative Living Circle training was the “Visualization Exercise.” The instructions for the exercise were: "Think about your day tomorrow, and imagine it going as well as you possibly can. Mentally step through your routine and the various activities you have planned, and see yourself moving through them easily and joyfully. Visualize yourself feeling good as your day unfolds.”* This tool plays with the “carrying the best of the past” idea and transforms it into “imagining the best for the future.”
Ever since I became acquainted with this exercise, I’ve read the end of the Gospel of Mark through a different lens. Mark’s Gospel, as you may recall, ends with the women finding Jesus’ tomb empty, except for a young man in white clothes. He tells the women that Jesus isn’t there; he's been raised and “is going ahead of you to Galilee.” The women flee in terror. There are no post-resurrection stories in Mark’s Gospel; the “end of the story” is left to the women (and others) who follow Jesus to Galilee. And, of course, it was in Galilee where Jesus spent most of his ministry; it was where the hope in his mission was birthed. And it is back to Galilee, to a place of hope re-born, that the “young man” directs "Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome.” There, the young man suggests, will be found the next steps in Jesus’ mission.
The question, reading the end of Mark through this lens, then becomes: “What can we imagine we’ll find in Galilee? Jesus will be there! What new things might he have in store for us”? This is a powerful question, I believe, for all of us. Certainly as individuals, we look forward, imagining an amazing future, as we contemplate a career choice, or being with our life-partner, or becoming parents. In any of those, we realistically recognize that there will be some challenges, some sacrifices. But the hope for the future outweighs those!
The same situation is ours, corporately, at Good Shepherd! As we move into our “Season of Visioning”, we are bid to remember that "Jesus is going ahead of us into Galilee” . . . that place, those places, where Good Shepherd has seen amazing things happen! We know that they can happen; the time is right for similar, new things, to amaze us! So, what can YOU imagine we’ll find in “Galilee”?
Another consideration when imagining an amazing future is wondering whether we’ll have what it takes to make that future a reality! That, of course, means taking stock and planning—whether as individuals or corporately. As a congregation, as we anticipate planning for the future (of which our stewardship is a significant part), we take into account all of our resources, and to bring them to the task of building in “Galilee.” We are a growing congregation with manifold gifts of time, talent and treasure. As Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians, we are not lacking in any gifts (1 Cor 1.4-7); we’ve been blessed by God!
Let’s follow Jesus into our Galilee! Let us "Think about our future, and imagine it going as well as we possibly can.” Let us “visualize [ourselves] feeling good as [it] unfolds.” And let us work with God to make it happen!