Monday, December 10, 2018

Tim's Toolbox: STORY - We Learn It to Live It

For followers of Jesus, story is important in many, many ways. Jesus taught in stories; the story of Jesus reveals who God is and what God has done; the stories of Scripture are a treasure chest for the life of faith; our personal stories are the way we bear witness to Jesus; seeing our own story as part of a larger story gives life context and meaning, and living in a story that we know ends in eternal life gives us hope and courage for the days along the way.

The Old Testament story unfolds as a series of movements on a map. Abraham and Sarah journey from their home in the East, up over the top of the Fertile Crescent and down into the Promised Land. That journey is represented by the upper curved arrow in the Story icon. Later, their descendants leave the Promised Land and move to Egypt, represented in the lower curved arrow. The story continues over many generations with a return to the Promised Land from Egypt in the Exodus, followed by a deportation back to the East in the Exile. The Old Testament story concludes with a final journey of return to the Promised Land to await the coming of the Messiah.

The New Testament story also unfolds on a map, but this time as an ever widening circle centered on Jerusalem. The life and work of Jesus unfolds there, then moves further and further into the rest of the world as his disciples share the message “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s goal remains the same (to embrace ALL people throughout the world), and the same basic strategy is used (commissioning a group of people to live out the message of God’s love.) In the Old Testament however, the approach is to have those people in a central location so that the message can go out from there. (Micah 4:2b) In the New Testament it’s the people themselves that are sent out into the world, bearing the message with them as they go. (Matthew 28:19)

The story of God’s activity in the world to deliver the message of love does not end with what’s written in the Bible. The story continues on through all the people that came afterwards, including each one of us. When we are called to be “witnesses,” it’s a call for us to tell our own stories of how God has touched and blessed us. Story is still the way that God is at work in the world.

Jesus used stories and parables when he taught 2000 years ago and he still uses stories to speak to us today, calling to mind a story from Scripture or life. Sharing these stories with each other is part of how we listen to God together, and how we care for and encourage each other. Stories become for us a kind of lexicon, a dictionary of images, ideas, themes and emotions that are able to catch our attention and strike chords in our minds, hearts and spirits. When we read stories in Scripture, we may begin by looking for what God said to people at the time since it may also apply to us today. But we also listen through the stories for what God is saying to us now. The story is still being told.

Genesis 12:1-3; Micah 4:1-2; Zechariah 8:20-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:1-11; Acts 7; Hebrews 11:4-40

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