Sunday, June 26, 2016

Unfinished stories

We have started a new thing in church this month as our pastor preaches through Colossians. One person gives his or her "Unfinished Story". It's sort of a reflection on what God is doing in our lives now. It's also a statement that our stories are not finished but God is still at work on us and in us. It's an acknowledgment that salvation is a process instead of a single moment. We are not working on our salvation but God is working on us. The person who shared today had been in full time Christian ministry for years. Then due to a number of failures and misfires he found himself without much faith left. He gave away his church stuff and for the next several years wandered in the wilderness. He tried church a few times but it wasn't working. It's only been recently that he has found some faith again but it is different this time. He talked about living a performance oriented Christianity. That struck a chord with me. Ever since I can remember church has been a lot about performance. Living in front of people and worrying about what they were thinking. Today's evangelical church is all about performances. A big show. It is for the glory of God and his kingdom but how honest is it and how honest can the performers be? The person who shared today was honest and he felt like he could be. That was a good thing. I have found transparency there, too.

Scott Cairns in a Short Trip to the Edge tells a story about Father Iakovos, a monk on Mount Athos in Greece. Once a man interrupted him in mid conversation and asked if Jesus was his personal savior. Nope, he said, I like to share him. Salvation has more to do with all of us than just me.

And not just the church, the body of Christ, but all of creation. The body of Christ is not depicted very well in the media these days. Unfortunately, many of us have been behaving badly and it is those words and deeds that are picked up and broadcast for all to see. There is a lot of stupid stuff going on. But, as Cairns says, we need the body of Christ. Faith must be connected to the community. A solitary faith will never be healthy.

But, to get back to the unfinished story. Salvation is more than a future project (going to heaven when I die). It is a present, moment by moment condition. It is a way of being in the kingdom here and now and not just some day in the future. Cairns says that is what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God is within you. Jesus looked around and said some of you will not taste death til they see the kingdom of God come with power. This kingdom life is for now; we can witness it, taste it, savor it's abundance now.

Cairns refers to a deathbed confession of Abba Benjamin of Scetis. Paraphrasing a part of Thessalonians, he said, If you observe the following, you can be saved, Be joyful at all times, pray without ceasing, and give thanks for all things. Those are words from within the kingdom now.

Cairns goes on to say he wants to replace this perennially hamstrung, broken self with a more promising image. He would like to undergo some lasting repairing of heart and mind, body and soul. Unfinished stories are not finished alone.

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