Meditations: Finding our Place in the Story
I when I retire I’m going to do two things. First, I’m going to break down and buy cable TV (I refuse to pay for something that comes for free over the airwaves. Second, I’m going to watch a lot of Law and Order. I need to know what happened in the middle of a lot of episodes.
Several years ago, when my church still offered Wednesday evening programming, my work day ran from 8 AM to 8:30 PM. Amy and I would decompress by watching Law and Order. I had this impossibly frustrating pattern of staying awake just long enough to see the conflict set up. Ten-year-old Jimmy witnesses a murder when he went into a store to shoplift Pokemon cards. Then I’d pass out on the couch for the next half hour. I’d wake up time for the court room scene: Jimmy is in the courtroom with several members of a Ukrainian organized crime syndicate, a trapeze artist, and a street vendor. Then the Law and Order twist: Jimmy has a twin brother, Jed, who committed the murder.
As the credits rolled I had no idea how the story had gotten from Point A to Point B. No idea. When I retire I’m going to find out.
It turns out that being a Christian is a lot like my experiences with Law and Order.
I recently read N.T. Wright’s The Last Word: Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture. Wright makes the case that Bible has authority like no other book because compels its reader to find their place in the story. A reader of the Bible is given the beginning of the story: The Fall, Israel, and Jesus. The reader is also given the end of the story: Revelation.
According to Wright, it’s up to the Christian reader to figure out how to connect the beginning and end of the story. The Bible commands its readers to improv. We to look at the beginning and the end of the and attempt to figure out what God is up to, what he is like, and what this salvation story is.
It's our assignment to look at what is past and what is to come and to well... make it up. We're to prayerfully speculate what what our role should be.
That's not say that there's aren't clues.
I love to play that piano and I'm fascinated by jazz music. I'm good enough to play jazz sheet music. But I'm not good enough to improvise. Why? I don't know the rules of improv. I haven't memorized the "modes" (they're kind of like scales.) Since I don't have that knowledge, I have a hard time choosing the right notes and correctly coloring the chord. If someone handed me a chord chart and told me to fill in sixteen bars, I'd fold.
The Bible demands that we improv, but supplies "rules" to point us in the right direction. The Sermon on the Mount provides us with core values. The two Great Commandments provide the melody line. Our spiritual gifts help us select our instrument.
I'm mixing metaphors. How do we improve our lives into God's story? I think it involves becoming so intimate with how God worked in the lives of people in Scripture that we could ask ourselves, "What would it look like if God were direction my steps in salvation history?"
However you answer that question, do that.