THE STORY WE LIVE IN
Everyone lives in and lives out a story. The question is, which story are we living?
Here is ours…
God is the good creator of a beautiful, complex and unfinished world. (You can find this in Genesis 1)
We are his ‘image bearers’ – positioned in a place of priority as viceroys called to reflect his good rule and to express this rule under him in the world. (Genesis 1 and 2 expand on this)
Tragically, we all routinely miss the mark of this vocation (see Genesis 3) and are enticed into rejecting God’s good rule. The more we are disordered the more the world takes on this disorder. (We call this The Fall)
God, however, doesn’t give up on us but instead seeks to restore the world and his creation through the humanity he gifted the created order but time and again we fall short of the glory he intended for us.
But God plants a ‘seed’ that he hopes will grow to become the largest of all trees who will be a blessing to the whole earth. (This is Israel’s story)
However, God’s chosen ‘seed’ (Abraham and his children) fail in the same way as everyone else and the corruption and disorder continues to spiral into chaos despite the growing learning and development of humanity as we become technologically more powerful.
The world’s patient and long-suffering God remains faithful to his covenant promise training and guiding this ‘stiff necked people’ until the time comes for him to send a new ‘image-bearing son’, a new king after a long exile and painful period of silence. (The Prophets narrate this part of the story)
Then, into this silence God speaks. The word made flesh.
And Jesus announces himself as the long awaited ‘King’ and he exhibits and embodies the new kingdom – its ethics, its character, its values and its truth.
Jesus’ good kingdom is relentlessly demonstrated by forgiveness of sins, healing, deliverance, salvation, transformation, reversal… (The Gospel stories narrate this). Sick, broken, needy, poor, empty, hungry, addicted, trapped, insecure, sinful people flock to Jesus seeking his salvation. The well, the secure, the rich, the filled, the powerful, the confident have no need of him and reject his message.
The clash of kingdoms grows more intense until their collision results in a climactic battle between Jesus and the ‘powers’.
Jesus’ death seems like a victory for the power of sin and death but his shocking resurrection displays that his death was anything but a defeat. It was rather a victory for God’s redemptive work.
Normal people witness the resurrection and tell stories of touching Jesus and and eating with him once again. The experiences force them to realign their lives and their worldviews completely.
Many people believe their testimony and in turn give their allegiance to the risen ‘Christ’. A movement begins in small ways but grows like wildfire when the Spirit of God breaths life in to the first witnesses and the story is shared in every language and tongue. On the basis of his resurrection thousands believe that Jesus is indeed ‘Lord’ and begin to declare him to be Lord over their own lives. They mark their allegiance to this Christ by dying and rising in their own baptism and they seek to live their own lives in community around him, seeking to embody his kingdom in their own ways. Despite their repeated failure, and the many ways they get distracted by the powers, God uses them to tell the story of the God who comes to save.
At their best, these people, those gathered around Jesus and his kingdom declaration, look like Jesus – his humility, his grace, his courage, his holiness, his beauty, his creativity, his self-sacrifice – and when they do, others are impressed and begin to reassess their own lives in light of this new truth.
They saw him ascend to heaven, but they believe that one day, this Jesus, this King, will return to the world he made, inhabited and died for, to rule as its true king. Until this time they partner with him in praying for his Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven and seek to forgive others like he forgave them – bearing the pain and the cost of other’s sin and hurt themselves rather than making others pay the debts owed.
They believe that King Jesus is at work in the world and in the cosmos, working to bring all the powers raging against God’s good creation under his feet and they consider their own sufferings as nothing in comparison to the glory of things to come. They see God at work and see his kingdom expressed in so many ways but they realise that while the battle has been won the war still rages. They live between the times.
They live in anticipation of the day of his return, when the last enemy to be defeated will be overcome – death itself – when there will be no more weeping or crying, tears or pain. Death still strikes but these strange kingdom people prefer to talk about death as sleep – a safe place of rest waiting for their own resurrection.
These strangers, brothers and sisters, aliens in a foreign land, believe that God is calling everyone in the world to trust God in Christ the King and their evangelism is a mixture of the goodness of God and his challenge calling everyone to repent, to rethink their ways of living, to exchange their own stories of how the world works for the story of this King – the ‘Lamb upon the throne’.
They believe that when the King Jesus returns everyone and everything will have to bow and submit to his good and perfect judgement. On this beautiful and terrible day, anything that contaminates the world, the pollution, the rubbish will finally destroyed, cleansed and recycled. The world will be made new. Anything that does not conform to the rule of the King will be destroyed like a cancer that is extracted from a body never to be allowed to return.
Until this both wonderful but terrifying, ‘Day of the Lord’, the Kingdom people, the so called church, the apprentices and disciples of Jesus, humbly seek to give themselves away for the sake of the world. Again and again they retell the story of the ‘great rescue’ through symbols of bread and wine and water, they read and re-read the narrative so that it fills their imagination and guides their lives, they pray for forgiveness and seek to forgive others as they have been forgiven, they resist the powers whenever they discern them twisting them out of shape again, they live in community and fellowship recognising that alone they will never be able to complete the race, and they seek to express the reality of the coming Kingdom in the present through acts of love, mercy, self-giving, wisdom, truth-telling, holy living and Spirit empowered acts of healing and deliverance.
This is the story we live in…