Scripture: Matthew 13:31-35
Sermon: “EPIC: The Story God is Telling–Prologue” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
“I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into,” said Frodo to Sam in the Lord of the Rings. Author John Eldredge begins the Prologue to Epic (that we are studying in class, small groups and sermons during our New Spiritual Passion for a New You in the New Year emphasis) with these words.
Counselor Eldredge’s thesis is that we have all fallen into quite a tale, a whopper even, and we won’t be able to make sense of life until we understand the story that God is telling in our lives and in the Bible. Pick up a book/CD in the Fellowship Hall today to help you.
What kind of story have we fallen into? We have all fallen into a story because “life… comes to us the way a story does, scene by scene.” You ask me, How was Japan? I tell you, Well, it would have been fine if we had remembered to review our passports…A story! But thank God, an old one. (Actually Japan was wonderful! I think the best moments were seeing the surprise on the kids’ faces every time they were handed money. The Japanese custom is to give a monetary gift in the new year. A story.)
But this life God has given us is a story, not just because story helps us connect events in an experience, but because story is how we figure things out. Daniel Taylor writes, “Our stories tell us who we are, why we are here, and what we are to do.”
Let me illustrate with a story that shaped my life from our family storyteller, Gramma. In one of Grandpa’s churches there was a gossip. Maybe in all, but this one was particularly bad. No secret was safe with her. Until one day she came into the parsonage to tell Gramma that so and so were having marriage problems. From his study bordering the kitchen where they sat, Grandpa stomped out to say, Now wait a minute. You do not know what you are talking about! Gail Gossip left in a huff and didn’t darken the doors of their church again. Until the town news came around that Gail needed a blood transfusion, and lo and behold, Grandpa’s blood type matched hers. So he took her to San Francisco to give her his blood. Gail was so grateful that she came back to church. And one night at a church potluck dinner her jaw loosened, Did you hear that… Oops, she paused, I can’t talk that way anymore. I have preacher’s blood in me. This story answered: Who am I? My DNA is to build the church. Why am I here? To let love win out over gossip. How shall I live? I will serve even my enemies (by giving blood like Jesus gave blood.)
That’s the power of story. But Eldredge points out that we have lost our story, “It’s like we’re holding in our hands some pages torn out of a book.” An improper understanding of science is a main cause. Improper understanding because we’ve tried to make science tell us about more than the mechanics of life, but also about life’s mystery.
To the question, “how did it all begin?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident.” To the question, “How will it all end?, science answers, “Probably by an accident.” And to many people the accidental life is not worth living. P. 9
But thank God! Jesus told stories. In verse 34 the narrator says… Now I have usually thought of this as being just a good teaching technique. However, the word, parable, literally means to put Jesus’ story alongside your own story. You know, you get captivated by the mustard seed growing into a great plant and then realize that you have been scoffing at the small seeds that Rabbi Jesus is sowing. But Jesus’ parable teaching is more than a good technique, it’s the way life is. God revealed Godself through his-story. Events happened that when interpreted, like the resurrection, added up to something great—Jesus is God! Now this is unique to the Judeo-Christian worldview. For example, story means less to a Muslim, Mormon or a Buddhist. Why? Because their god didn’t reveal herself through history, but the revelation dropped from the sky—a-historical. Perhaps this is the problem with the timeless truth of jihad. Moderates say its the battle between good and evil within. Radicals say its killing Westerners. Which is it? Without seeing the truth lived through inspired history, it’s hard to know. I’m thankful for his-story
This brings us to the Bible. What is the Bible? Is it a book of morals like Muslims believe about the Koran? Yes. Is it a book of beliefs like Buddhists believe of their holy writings? Yes. But its fundamentally a story. So I need to read God’s story because:
its greater than my story, and its story spans further than my time and place.
But you say, Hey pastor, let’s be realistic here, isn’t the Bible just written by humans? Well, Yes and No. Yes, it’s the diary of humanity’s experience with God over 1500 years—cool, huh?! But no, its inspired by God because its our experience with GOD.
Lastly, how do I enter into God’s story? Use it as a yardstick. Not to measure if you’re good enough, you’re not, but Jesus is. Not to measure your knowledge of God, your finite mind can’t begin to wrap around the infinite. But to see where your story fits into the story of God’s people. For example, what is my purpose in life? The same as the Christmas angels sang: to promote peace and goodwill to all. Why am I struggling? God’s people have always found themselves caught up in the battle between good and evil. Why is life so hard? Don’t lose heart: God bats last, so those on God’s side will prevail.
What kind of story have I fallen into? More on the content of God’s story through the diary of God’s people in the weeks to come.
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