Another sermon series will end for me and our church very soon. I’m estimating around the end of October for the current series, Genesis, to come to an end. It’s always bittersweet for me. So far at Ekko, in the six years we’ve been around, we covered three books of the Bible.
It’s taken about 2 years per book, almost every Sunday, these last six years.
And what a journey it has been. These texts were foundational in the formative years of our church. Like nutrients found only in a mother’s milk, we nursed and took in these grand narratives. And they have informed this young community, and it continues to form us ever so naturally into the image of our savior.
"All theologies, then, are necessarily local theologies, ineluctably contextualized, indigenized, on the way to full inculturation. There is no such thing as Christian faith by itself (fides qua), existing pure and unalloyed in the depth of one’s heart, in some prelinguistic or alinguistic state." - Vietnamese American Theologian, Peter C. Phan
“The bible was not primarily written in order to be read in ten verse chunks… but read in order to experience it the way you experience a symphony.” - NT Wright
What moves me the most is that in hearing and wrestling with these stories as a community we, by faith, are slowly being grafted into the larger narrative. And in doing so, we find ourselves becoming more and more mature as a "People of the Resurrection". Of course it is the work of Christ on the Cross that secures this grafting in, this adoption, but listening and retelling these stories helps us get to know and become a part of the family in a very real and practical sense.
It is one thing to be adopted, a total act of love and grace on the part of the adopting parents. However, in time, the child must accept the adoption more thoroughly by embracing the family, its history, its culture, its values. So it is with us as a church, we may be saved by grace but it is through Scripture we find ourselves getting situated, rooted and experiencing the “sense” of belonging... not just the “knowledge” or the “faith” that we belong.
Think about it.
When you get to know someone, how do you move from stranger to friend? From friend to lover? From lover to partner? Aren’t stories a major part of the journey towards intimacy and friendship? It is in hearing and embracing the family history where one can locate and find meaning in their journey. It is only when you discover your lover’s past that a proper bond can occur as you enter their story of pain and triumph.
“What we have is a cacophony of individual narratives, everyone wants to be the author of their own lives, no one wants to be relegated to a part in a bigger story; everyone wants to give their opinion, no one wants to listen. It’s enchanting, it’s liberating, but ultimately it’s disempowering because you need a collective, not individual, narrative to achieve change.” - Adam Curtis | Filmmaker
One of my favorite moments in the year is the Passover/Good Friday/Easter Season. Every year since the inception of Ekko Church, we’ve participated in a Messianic Passover Feast. Jesus commanded that whenever we do the “feast”, the feast being the Passover Feast, that now it will be done with him in mind and with him seen as the Passover Lamb that God used to redeem and free us… propelling us into the New Exodus! Anyways, one year, I remember someone crying in the back as they partook in the ceremony. It’s actually a really “dry” service with lots of ceremonial aspects to it if you’re looking from the outside in. But for those who engage and enter into the larger story with Jesus in mind, it’s like hearing stories from the past about your newly found love interest. You are moved, you get to see who he is by understanding what he has gone through, you are inspired by the kind of person he was and is. That person in the back crying came up to me to thank me for the service afterwards. I inquired as to why she was crying. She answered simply with great emotion, “I never knew that Jesus, Salvation, this whole thing was part of a larger story. What a long history, long journey, God is so patient and loving. I didn’t really think of Jesus being Jewish, and that its history was a story of the Love and the Pursuit of God…”
God welcomes us home by telling us his story.
“Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.” - Eugene Peterson
One of the first things my pastor did when I was getting discipled by him was to read every single chapter of the Bible and to do a Devotional Bible Study and Chapter Summary of each chapter in the Bible. I must admit, it was horrible at times. I was in the middle of grad school at the time and working full-time in the ministry with him. I used to finish my readings and devotionals sometimes at midnight and would have to study for school till 4AM! But was it worth it? What do you think? It brought me closer to God, as much as years of prayers in my closet, as much as Christ-centered Friendships, as much as Christ-like Service, maybe more or maybe it fueled all the other avenues of communing with God. Whatever the case, it was freaking awesome.
Some folks may wonder why I stay on one book for the entire year when I preach.
This is why.
It's like a couple finding and visiting over and over their favorite spot, hiking trail, restraurant. We keep visiting the same spot, getting familiar with it, because in doing so we are offered a space where intimacy can be nurtured.
Going through these books in Scripture is simply an act of communing with God.
Scripture is entering in,
the relationship we have with God...
As I close, I’m reminded of the time when I was an intern at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. If you’ve ever been, it’s simply grand, majestic, and it houses within it some of the most beautiful and inspiring art and with it stories/history. I remember during orientation we were taken up by a tram and on our way up our guide informed us that the museum experience actually starts here. From the tram, the way we enter the space, to the initial entry unto the grand foyer, through the museum, to the ledge where all of LA can be taken in by the majestic view… all of it was actually designed so that with each step you are given the chance to experience the majesty of this place hopefully with greater adequacy. The way we entered creates an anticipation that sets you up for an experience that won’t disappoint.
It reminds me of what Matthew Frederick wrote in 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, “Your experience of an architectural space is determined by how you enter it…” I wonder how we are entering daily the presence and the space of God? I wonder if Scripture and Prayer make up the double pane doors to enter this sacred space. I wonder if Scripture was meant to be our “tram” up? May Scripture escort you daily to the overarching architecture of God’s redemptive story and purpose. May you see God there and take in the grand view of life, salvation, and redemption.
Let’s not take lightly this gift we’ve been given. Read with me. Enter with me. Let us go up the mountain of God… via the tram of God.
“We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.” - NT Wright