Part 1 of Notes from a 1st Century Pastor

Come with me and you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination …
If you want to view paradise,
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Want to change the world,
There’s nothing to it.
—“Pure Imagination”

How could a kid not love the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? The original one starring Gene Wilder. After seeing the movie as a kid, I’m sure I dreamed of swimming in a chocolate river. Willy Wonka sings “Pure Imagination” at the beginning of the chocolate factory tour. Or was that “Candyman”? I can’t remember. (Harry Connick Jr. includes both as a medley on his “Songs I Heard,” and he mixes them up.)

I was thinking of Willy Wonka when I began rereading John’s Gospel. John skips over the Nativity and the Epiphany and gets right to Jesus’ ministry. Shortly after his baptism, Jesus begins calling ordinary men to be his disciples. One of these is Philip, who returns to his hometown and urgs his friend Nathaniel to check out the one “of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote.”

Nathaniel discounts Philip’s appeal, saying something like, “Nazareth? Really? Come on, nothing good can come from Nazareth.”

Nazareth was an insignificant town, not unlike the small town where we live here in rural Ohio. (Sometimes I respond to polls offered on USA Today’s iPad app, which reveal the results based on location. There is only ever one from my town.) Nathaniel simply could not believe his friend. But Philip insists he should at least investigate this Jesus, son of the carpenter Joseph.

So he goes, and when he meets the man, he is blown away by Jesus’ prophetic abilities. Something about a fig tree—you can check it out in John 1:43-51.

Jesus says, “That was nothing, my friend. You will see greater things than these.”

“Nathaniel, come with me to a world of pure imagination.”

No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him. —1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV

“Anything you want to do it.”

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. —Philippians 4:13 ESV

“Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.”

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” —Acts 2:42, 47 ESV

What might God be up to today around you? What greater things does he want us to be a part of? How does he want to change the world through us?

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