Thursday, August 17, 2006

God's Story

Explanation: At last night’s meeting of the Sacrament Review Committee, I made a comment, well several I suppose, that apparently revealed myself to be a heretic and ignorant. I make that conclusion based on the number of gasps, choking noises, and the number of people leaping away from anticipated lightening bolts. My comment was that God’s story isn’t about God, but creation. This post is intended to illustrate my comments and to place them in perspective.

God’s Story

In one aspect it is patently obvious that God’s story is about God. After all, who else would God’s story be about? Isn’t that why we would call it God’s story? Well of course. God is the actor, He does great and mighty things, it is He who moves in history to craft and to cause what He wants. Similarly, it is clear that any biography is the story of the person whose name is on the front of the book. It is a story about what they did, a description of their life.

But a person’s story, if read only to get the details of what they did, or even to laud them as great people, is of far lesser value than if read to gain insight and lessons from the person’s life. If we do not actually see their life from their view, we have missed the greatest reason for reading their biography. We become mere fact finders.

Let me illustrate. If we were to read Billy's story, we would read about him. About his job, about what he did on Tuesday, about the fact that he is a preacher, and a host of other facts. In short we would read a story about Billy. But if we were to enter that story from Billy's view, we would see that his story is not about Billy, but rather Susan. We would see a story about a man who loves, cares for, worries about, cries with, and prays for someone else. Billy’s story becomes less about Billy and more about Susan. Billy remains the actor, but the focus of the story shifts from how great a guy Billy is to what Billy is actually about. Billy is about Susan.

Or perhaps Billy might consider his life incomplete if his boys simply learned the fact that he was a preacher. Even if they all become preachers, if they simply were masters at the preacher’s craft, Billy’s hope for them would not be realized. Rather, Billy’s hope for them is that they come to see who Billy is, his love for God and his love for other people. Hopefully Billy does not preach because he is driven by fear, but rather because he is driven by care for others. Billy’s story is not about Billy. Billy’s story is about becoming the man God wants us to be. It is about other people. It is about his boys.

Similarly, the same is true concerning God’s story. God is the actor. We read of His great deeds, we see Him bless and afflict various peoples and beings. But that view is from outside the story. If we see the story as God see’s it, if we can put ourselves in God’s place in the story, it becomes clear that God’s love, God’s concern, God’s passion is the creation. Our God is an other-centered God and His story is about His care for others. God is about other people. His story is about people. His story is about you.

N.T. Wright argues that God’s story is about a God that cares so much about creation that He remains faithfully in covenant with it, that He created, loves, transforms, and will re-create the creation. God’s story, from God’s view is about something other than God. James Thompson argues that Paul’s great mission in life was the transforming of the Christians and the church into the creatures we were made to be. It is that transformed church that will prove whether Paul’s work was worth much. Paul’s story is not so much about Paul as it is about the church. It is that way because Paul understood that God’s story is about the creation.

We get a glimpse of this from the prophets. God calls the entire cosmos together as witnesses to His love and care for His people. He does so not out of some ego need, but because He wants His people to see what kind of God He is. He wants them to see that He is steadfast and faithful to them. And He calls them to be steadfast and faithful to Him and to each other. Not so much because He’s a great God, but because He is crafting in them the salvation of the world. They were to be God-people in the world. Their story isn’t so much about them as it is the creation.

We do ourselves and our God a great disservice when we come to believe that our highest calling is the worship of God rather than the love and care for the same things that are the center of His work. We are being transformed not into worshippers of God primarily, but rather beings that are like Him. Beings that are truly human and that bear the clear image of our God. Beings that truly are what they were created to be. We are made to join with, and be with Him.

Because we come to see what our God is about, we worship Him and yield to His transforming power to make us like Him. We don’t do so out of fear, but out of an understanding of our God. This is what Israel missed. They acted as though God’s story culminated with them and in other cases, that their rituals were sufficient. They missed that they were a vessel of blessing for the entire creation and when they missed that, their rituals were hollow. They missed that God’s story is about people other than themselves.

We (the creation) are the foci of His creative power, His sustaining power, and His saving power. And so God’s story is not about God. It is about people. We can fully join with Him only if we grasp what He is really about.

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