Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tell Me the Story

Reading The Jesus I Never Knew is helping me emerge from a winter-long funk. It's as if I am being introduced to an old friend, someone I once had more than a passing acquaintance with, someone I've been missing for a long time. Yes, Jesus, I remember you. You're the man that once rocked my world. I said I was going to follow you forever . . . but somehow I guess I lost sight of you.

It startles me to think how little Jesus actually shows up in all our Christian yak-yak-yakking. Or how selectively we cite his words and deeds. In my first church, his name came up frequently as a means to illustrate that we were all nothing more than creepy-crawly dung beetles (that's what Martin Luther said, after all) and it was sure a damn good thing that Jesus died for us. That was egregious, yes, but the wider evangelical community, while it is perhaps more charitable, merely uses the life of Jesus, as well as all the Scriptures, as a source of sermon illustrations, intended to help bolster a point that the preacher seems to think we all need to hear.

But what ever happened to simply telling the story? This thought keeps tantalizing--telling the story of Jesus. Which itself is embedded in a larger story--that of the Father's plan to restore His creation. Philip Yancey put it this way (here):
I would summarize the "plot" of the Bible as "God getting his family back." God chose a slow, rather circuitous way to accomplish that goal. First he started with one family, Abraham's family, then a tribe, then a nation, and finally out of the nation brought forth a Messiah for the entire world. The goal all along, as Jesus declared, "Gos is not willing that any shous perish." Isn't that the theme of the prodigal son story? As I mention, the real hero of that story is not the son but the father. Jesus told the story to describe the unfathomable love of a forgiving father. What is true of one son in one family gives a picture of what is true of God's love for the entire world--as Jesus would later demonstrate in the most graphic way possible.
It's a great story, many-faceted, endlessly engaging. It's a triumphant story, and a true story, and good news for the poor, the blind, the weak, the enslaved. It's a story that lifts heads, dries tears, gives life, and provokes joy. It's the Father's grand plan, pursued with passion and persistence and at great personal cost. Jesus Christ, the man from Nazareth, is the foundation and capstone of the entire edifice, the beginning and end, the enduring theme woven throughout this long and alluring text.

Show me Jesus, Pastor. Don't assume I need a talking to about getting involved at church. Don't rifle the Scriptures for items that help you make your point. Take me through the Word, re-introduce me to the Great Story. Tell me about Abraham and how he fits into the grand plan, and Moses and how he does, and all the wild and visionary prophets; show me Jesus in the ancient Jewish texts, and show me the Roman world in which Paul traveled, and who it was that set him to journeying, and tell me what he meant when he said, "Not I who live, but Christ lives in me."

No, we respect the Scriptures far less than we say we do. We mold them to our agendas, cutting and pasting as we see fit, inevitably losing the all-important context. There's no other book that we would treat with such cavalier disrespect. Though the Bible is an anthology of writings, we do not even read whole books within that anthology, and our preachers seldom tell us of them. As a people we Christians are notoriously ignorant of the very book we call the Word of God. We extract Post-It Note promises from it, but we do not read it with integrity.

Pastors, just tell us the Great Story. We need to hear it again.


Avishay said...
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flyawaynet said...

Thank you for this post. My list of books to read is getting longer and longer since I'm working on finishing up a very long series right now. But this book just added itself to my list. I'm looking forward to reading it. Since I haven't read Phillip Yanceys book yet, I can't tell you for sure, but one book that might go along well with it (that I enjoyed a lot) is Max Lucado's book "Just like Jesus".