September 8, 2013

September 8, 2013

September 8, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

GodStory, Act I: CREATION
Key Event #1 of 37, Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Title: “ALL GOOD”

Today we begin our 2nd year of preaching/teaching the GodStory.

Let me share some thoughts on this process/idea:

2.5 years ago, our church was chosen as 1 of 12 (out of 150 churches) in North America to participate in a Biblical Preaching project with Luther Seminary. This was a great experience for us as a church…through interviews and idea sharing I think we grew as a congregation. And there were some signifcant takeaway points for us:

Point 1:
Most pew-sitting Christians don’t understand the big story, or overarching biblical story of the Bible.
We sit and hear “episodic” sermons week after week and though they might have good ideas and teaching points in them, we don’t know how they fit into the grand story of God. Thus we end up being very “compartamentalized” Christians. We live our lives in one place and everything is fine (or not!) and then we have our Christian life in another place…thus I have my Christian life, my work life, my social life, my school life, my leisure life and I just go along in life keeping all these lives ticking along, trying my best to be happy, to be fulfilled, to pay the bills, to make the grade…and so on. And perhaps we come here on a Sunday morning and we’re here to get our religious fill-up (aaaah, that feels better!). Nice lessons. Nice people. Nice music. But it doesn’t really change us, transform us or move us. We go back to our “regular” lives and we’re just not quite sure how to fit in all this “religious stuff” that we experience on Sunday….it’s good, don’t get me wrong… but it doesn’t really fit into our regular lives.
One of Rev. Jeremy’s “deep thoughts” with the Youth last year was this:
“In North America, it can be easy for us to LIVE OUR LIVES AS…professing Christians but PRACTICING ATHIESTS.”
[We self-describe as Xians, but our habits/routines in our life happen as if God does NOT EXIST]
– there’s always a way out: medication, therapy, a better workout/diet….and to add _____ to misery, people who are not religious live better, kinder, saner lives than we Christians do….ack!
This year, Rev. Jeremy is going to continue the conversation and help our youth and young adults change that…it won’t be a overnight change…but I’m encouraged that he and the other leaders are wanting our younger generation people to have a faith that matters in the midst of their real lives…and not a faith that comes out on Friday nights and Sunday mornings and then is easily ignorable (or un-useable?) the other 5 days of the week.
So…getting back to the GodStory specifically, how can we shape an understanding of this big storyline that actually makes a difference in the way we live in the world, here and now, September 2013???? Or, in other words, “How might we become less like nice, pew-sitting Christians (practicing athiests!) who live neat and tidy, compartamentalized lives?

Point 2:
Well, that’s where the GodStory approach (or the Narrative Lectionary) comes into effect. When you come to church at FBC Edmonton, you don’t hear “episodic” sermons for the next 37 weeks…we will move chronologically through the God Story…one big arc, one big drama, that has 5 ACTS… CREATION, FALL, ISRAEL, JESUS, New People of God. And through this big story, and these key events that we’ll preach on week after week, the hope is that you will see/believe/encounter a living God who is alpha and omega, the beginning and end, a God who is “good” all the way through….not bad god in the OT, good God in the NT…but instead good, loving God all the way through….a God who creates, sustains, orders, preserves, provides and loves…all the way through. Now this is not to say that there are messes along the way…there are a ton o’ messes and failures in the GodStory…but the overarching story should always be humming in the background….and it ought to sound like this:
God loves us & we are most (at our best as) the People of God when we “do” love and join God on God’s great and restorative work in the world.
Now as we get this GodStory into our hearts, minds, imaginations, lives we live differently…and thus we read other parts of the GodStory differently.
So, for instance, Becky Bonham is teaching on the Book of Ruth in the pre-church adult study…if you were with us last year, you might say to yourself: “Ruth…OT book, part of the 3rd act of the GodStory…Israel…the part of the story where God is trying to use the People of Israel to be a role-model for worshipping the living God and then being a blessing to all generations and all peoples!” “What might I learn from Ruth and how might her story inform the bigger story of how God moves in the world and because this God is still alive, how might God move in my life today?”

Point 3:
So, we preachers will preach/teach the GodStory, but one other big thing we learned during the biblical preaching project is that it’s not just up to us preachers to get God’s good work done…..there is work for the “hearer” too. We can share a fantastic sermon on the GodStory, but it is also up to all you “hearers” to bring it to life as well. That’s why you’re going to hear us using the phrase “moved by the story” lots this year. We want the GodStory to actually “hit the road” in the midst of your everyday Christian lives. Thus it’s not gonna be “That’s an interesting story, but has absolutely nothing to do with my life!” Instead it will hopefully be more like: “How does this ancient story, this GodStory MOVE ME?” “How does this living story, authored by a living God, ANIMATE the way that I move & live in the world?” And thus the way this story plays out in the world because of the 200 of us is as varied, as normal, as beautiful, as unique as all 200 of us. So it’s not up to the ministry staff and the church council to come up with ways that the GodStory lives through you… there’s work for you to do too!! Is that fun or does that sound too much like work??

Point 4:
Well…what if we worshipped while we worked? (whistle while u work!)
The cool thing about learning and living the GodStory is that we can do it while we worship on Sunday mornings?? We have this amazing opportunity each week to gather as the church…different generations, different life experiences, different perspectives, but we can recognize that as God’s People here and now, we are living examples of God’s Story at work through a people…so the big themes of love, sustenance, creation, providence come to life though us as the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue God’s good work in the world.

Which is the heart of our expanded vision statement that I have been sharing this year…
Listening to God’s Heart
Moved by the Story
Seeking the Peace & Well-being of the City.

How do we seek peace and well-being in Edmonton? As God’s people we do it from a places/posture of Listening to God’s heart and being moved/animated/enthused by the Living GodStory. This is not a dead story…this is a living story empowered by a living God [God as protagonist in the story!], On the move, for us….all the while placing the same spirit and power in us as the one that raised Jesus from the empty tomb. Hurrah!

Point 5:
It’s amazing how all this story talk shows up in other places…when we understand the GodStory & how we live very “storied” lives, I think it changes the way we share our faith with others. The exciting thing about being a Christian in North American in 2013 is that people are open more than ever to the power of Story. One of the Luther Seminary prof’s Rolf Jacobson shares in one of his lectures that everyone of our lives is filled will a million stories. We are a storied people. We live in a world of stories. Everyday, you tell tens or perhaps a hundred stories.
AND…isn’t it true that all of us live according to some kind of storyline? Perhaps it’s based on your favourite TV/movie character? Or your neighbour? Or your “family narrative”. Or your personality profile? Or the fantastic life that you publicly live in the world of facebook.
And “story” has shown up in lots of places in Christian Culture: look at these books: “Story” or “The Story of the Christ” or “The Story we find ourselves in.”
Well, for Christians…for God’s people, we can have all these littler stories unfolding in our lives, but for Christians there is ONE STORY to RULE THEM ALL…it’s the GodStory and it’s the story we are invited to look to, learn from, live into…to find our identity as humans….and to understand how we ought to live together as community….and it’s the grand story that helps us make sense of the littler stories of our lives.

Point 6:
Now I don’t expect us to get it all figured out fast…I’ve been growing in this understanding for almost 15 years (Carey and Regent were big influences!).

Q & A:
e.g. question: “How has looking at the Bible as “GodStory” changed the way you live and grow in your Christian faith?”

Quote from Peterson re: Genesis – –
GENESIS – by Eugene Petersen
Genesis gets us off on the right foot. Genesis pulls us into a sense of reality that is God-shaped and God-filled. It gives us a vocabulary for speaking accurately and comprehensively about our lives, where we come from and where we are going, what we think and what we do, the people we live with and how to get along with them, the troubles we find ourselves in and the blessings that keep arriving….

We are given a succession of stories with named people, people who loved and quarrelled, believed and doubted, had children and married, experienced sin and grace.
If we pay attention, we find that we ourselves are living variations on these very stories. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his sons, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers. The stories show clearly that we are never outsiders or spectators to anything in “heaven and earth”. God doesn’t work impersonally from space; he works with us where we are, as he finds us. No matter what we do, whether good or bad, we continue to be part of everything that God is doing. Nobody can drop out—there’s no place to drop out to. So we may as well get started and take our place in the story—at the beginning.

READ THE STORY, Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Closing comments and prayer:
The beginning & enduring word from God for us since the beginning of time is this:
“It’s good”…. “YOU are good!”
Now things fall apart really quickly in this world of this goodness, but we can not forget that we, the human race, have been created by a good God who is always holding us in good and loving hands.

Will this change the way we live our life story this week? Knowing and believing that we are in the hands of a good and loving God?
Knowing that those around us, whether it’s our closest friend or family member…or even our most-hard-working-against-us enemy…. is in the hands of a good and loving God and is actually….when we look into her/his face….is created in the image of God and is an image-bearer of God to us?

This is good news. This is complicated news. But this is also GodStory truth & news for us.
As we allow ourselves to frame our lives within this GodStory this week [this semester!], may we encounter love, mercy and grace…and may be become more of a people who exude & “gush forth” with love, mercy and grace…so that our God might be glorified and the dream/kingdom of God might show up right here on earth, as it is in heaven.

Let us pray…

Creation Prayer
Gracious God, you created the world and sent your own Son to live among us, made of the same stuff, breathing the same air, marvelling at sunrise and sunset just as we do.
Help us to participate in the life around and within us as your life, as you living in us and we living in you and in each other.
God of love and life, restore us to your peace, renew us through your power and teach us to love all that you have created and to care for the earth as your gift and our home.
– The Earth Community: In Christ through the Integrity of Creation