girl teaching stuffed animals

Text:  Matthew 5:13-14 – “You are the salt of the earth….; You are the light of the world….”

When I was young, I dreamed of being a teacher. I would line up my dolls (and my little brother) on chairs in front of a blackboard in my bedroom. I would write addition and subtraction “problems” on the board and count out loud. My students always got the right answers! Then I would read a story book to them and they “loved” it. My imagination was tempered by actual teachers, by actual parents, by actual preachers. I was sure, however, that being a teacher would be a wonderful job. And it was—for over 10 years.

When I was in my thirties, I imagined that being a pastor would be rewarding. I imagined that church members would be as excited as I was about biblical texts and practical applications. I imagined that children, adults and old people would come to church and be thrilled with the hymns and preaching. I thought that being a pastor would bring joy to me—and it did for over 35 years.

Of course, neither of these two vocations brought only joy, happiness, or fulfillment. There were plenty of students who failed my English classes and plenty of church members who decided that my preaching was not “fulfilling” enough, and they would go worship some place else. My imagination was larger than the actual day-to-day life of being a teacher or pastor.

Yet, I still imagine to this day that the life of teaching and pastoring are worthwhile and important.

Jesus, it seems, was the ultimate teacher and pastor. He always presented a story, a parable and then had his listeners imagine the moral or the application. He always loved the people—whether rich, poor, healthy, diseased, mentally ill or prophetic, female or male. He imagined they would be conveyors of the Good News. I suppose he was disappointed at times—because he surely saw violence, hurt, and betrayal.  I suppose Jesus kept imagining a people who would turn from hate to love, from parochial views to new ways to be hospitable.

Frankly, the things we read in the Bible that Jesus said, are full of imagination. “You are salt of the earth.” Huh? “You are the light of the world.” What? It seems that Jesus wants his created human beings to be creative and active. He wants his assortment of followers to live a new way: salty and illuminating. Use your imaginations!

I believe Prairie View offers salt and light to those who are mentally ill and behaviorally challenged. Prairie View offers therapists and professional staff who can present a picture of a new reality. They are helping others to be creative! “Can you imagine what tomorrow would be like if you could be hopeful?” “Can you think of a happy day?” “What if there were a medication that helped you?” “What if someone was kind to you?” “Do you have an imagination?”

Praise God for Prairie View. May God’s imagination be part of each day in the life of staff, administration, Board, and clients.

Rev. Dorothy Nickel Friesen is a retired Mennonite minister and denominational minister who served on the Prairie View Board.