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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday School: Which Narrative part 2

(NIV) Isaiah 49

14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
    the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back,
    and those who laid you waste depart from you.

There are several narratives which could serve as the "core" story of our life. Here are three:
1. There is no god, there is no meaning to life, we are here by accident and all that happens occurs in a cold dark universe. In response we can choose despair, or denial. I am alone and on my own...
2. There is a God, but He is demanding and punishes us for our errors. He must be feared and obeyed. We must earn everything. His eye is ever watchful to find a mistake. Anything that goes wrong is His hand of judgment.
3. God is a loving Mother, a faithful Father. God desires to save us and loves us. His plan is for our good. Her desire is to comfort and renew us.

Last week we ended in prayer together with the third model. What happened? Some were full of joy, others were terribly uncomfortable. I was told "I can't wait to come back" and "I don't want to come back." 
But my question is "If...
If God so loved the world that He sent His only Son and He sent His Son to save the world...
If Jesus says God is like a Father who runs to welcome back a wayward son and celebrate his return...
If Jesus says from the cross, "Father forgive them"...
If Jesus says to the sinner, "Your sins are forgiven," to the sick, "I do will it, be healed," to the demon possessed, "be free," to the hungry, "sit down and eat (and later 'I give my flesh for food')," to the dead, "rise"...and to the fearful in despair, "fear is useless, what is needed is trust....only believe."
If the ministry of Jesus was constantly focused on freeing people from the Kingdom of Darkness.
If Jesus said "As the Father has loved me so I have loved you," "I want my joy to be in you so that your joy may be complete," "fear not little flock it has pleased the Father to give you the Kingdom."

Then what if these promises shape our narrative?

We return to the image of a mother and baby.
We are not babies any more. Babies must learn to love others and to discipline their wants and desires. Babies are self centered. But the basic needs of a baby remain with us forever. As we learned to love others we were wounded and harmed. Our imperfect self was nurtured by imperfect parents and we grew up in an imperfect world. Let's call that "Original Sin and life in a Fallen World."

Adults are to be mature, but we still have needs for care and love. The wounds of life make us less trusting. We withdraw in distrust and fear. Our mistakes make us guilty and shameful. We build walls to protect ourselves, closing off hope so we aren't disappointed. We have negative feelings and thoughts--anger, fear, sadness, despair--which take away our joy. The world is full of beauty and good, but danger and evil and ugliness find a way to ruin things. And in the spirit realm any number of demons wreak havoc in our souls.

Those who believe/trust/live in Christ's Kingdom (He said it is near) have a power (Light, Life, Love) at work which competes with the Darkness of a Fallen World. Jesus is not just a moral teacher or a hope for life after death. He is active among us now (or can be if we tap into Him!) But it is easy to lose hope, to not believe, to not embrace the promises of God. We can say "God is love," but in the secret of our heart we can add, "but not for everyone, not all the time." We can trust God, but "not totally." We can say Jesus is the Savior but then limit that salvation to heaven.

That is the difficulty of the church. Her members are of divided mind. Followers of Christ, but not too close, so as not to be too disappointed when He fails us (again). And not being close and not having trust only produces more experiences which lead us to despair a bit more, trust and hope a bit less, and withdraw with a bit more fear, anger and sadness. Just a bit mind you, just a bit. But over time those bits add up and we become more like those who are outside Christ...

And we don't see the Kingdom near. And so let's ponder. If the Gospel is true, what is God up to among us? And how can we come to know and experience all the abundance of the Kingdom?
Find a friend or two and discuss that. How would you be different if you believed that God desires to do such good things, here and now, in you and through you? Why would Jesus say these things if they are not true?

Step out in faith, (with confidence) ask God to fill you with a bit more trust, a bit more joy, a bit more hope... And thank Him for giving it! 

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