Saturday, September 17, 2011

People of the Story

As people of faith, we are part of a story.  You may choose to begin that story with the Garden, but I usually start with the covenant that God established with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3:    “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you . . . and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  God was calling out a people who would do what God does—bless others.  The end of the story is found in Revelation 21:1-3:  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”  God’s people find themselves in perfect union with God at the end of the story.

A lot happens to humankind and it relationship to God between Genesis and Revelation, but the theme continues—God is calling out a people who will be on the mission of God, bringing all people to God.  At the center of God’s call to create such a people is a story.  It is the story of God’s call and humankind’s response.  This is the Gospel story.

Now the beauty of the story is that you don’t have to have a high IQ, a theological education, or any education at all to understand the story.  The story can be told to children in Africa, to illiterate farmers in the jungles of South America, or to people on the islands of Malaysia.  As long as we stick to the essentials of the story, anyone can understand it.  Children can understand it.  Mentally challenged people can understand it.  The gospel cuts across human boundaries of culture and education because it is essentially a story.

This is a seamless story.  There is not a neat division between the Old Testament and the New Testament (or as some say the old covenant and the new covenant).  We often use that to deal with problems of interpretation, but it is all one story.  Like any good story, many of those who were part of it did not know the next chapter or the ending, but they had faith that it would all work out as God promised.  We are part of that story and although we know the end, our part in it is still being played out.

In the Formation for Christian Ministry class that I teach for Central Baptist Theological Seminary Tennessee, I take the time to tell my story during the first class.  I do not do this because my story is so remarkable but because I want students to see how my story links both to God’s story and that of God’s people and so they will be empowered to consider their story in the same relationships.

No matter who were are or where we live, God’s story is part of who we are and hope to become.  Let’s keep telling the story.

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