Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Finding Ourselves in the Story of God

I’ve been reading Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon. The subtitle speaks volumes about the book: a provocative Christian assessment of culture and ministry for people who know something is wrong. I’m only about halfway through but I have been underlining large sections already. These authors are veritable quote machines and I hope to continue to use much of this material as I think through church in this new millennium.

A few quotes for you:
On “story:”
The Bible is fundamentally a story of a people's journey with God. In Scripture, we see that God is taking the disconnected elements of our lives and pulling them together into a coherent story that means somenting. In trying to make sense of life, when we lack a coherent narrative, life is little more than a lurch to the left, a lurch to the right.

How does God deal with human fear, confusion and paralysis? God tells a story. Israel is a people who learn this story by heart and gather regularly to tell it. In telling that story, Israel comes to see itself as a people on a journey, an adventure. Its ethics become the virtues necessary to sustain Israel on the road. Our contention is that it does not just happen that God’s people tell stories; certainly the penchant for storytelling has nothing to do with Matthew, Mark and Luke being primitive, pre-rational people who told simple stories, whereas we are sophisticated people who do not. Story is the fundamental means of talking about, and listening to God, the only human means available to us that is complex and engaging enough to make comprehensible what it means to be with God.

The early Christians … began with stories about Jesus, about those whose lives got caught up in His life. Therefore, in a more sophisticated and engaging way, by the very form of their presentation [a story], the Gospel writers were able to begin training us to situate our lives like His life. We cannot know Jesus without following Jesus. Engagement with Jesus is necessary to understand Jesus. In a sense, we follow Jesus before we know Jesus. Furthermore, we know Jesus before we know ourselves. For how can we know the truth of ourselves as sinful and misunderstanding, but redeemed and empowered, without our first being shown as it was shown to his first disciples.

By telling these stories we come to see the significance and coherence of our lives as a gift, as something not of our own heroic creation, but as something that must be told to us, something we would not have know without the community of faith. The little story I call my life is given cosmic, eternal significance as it is caught up within God’s larger account of history.

In a world of unbelief and its consequences, even the recitation of a story like that of a church so ordinary as [ours] is bound to sound adventurous, even heroic, because the world’s cynicism and unbelief make the courage, continuity and conviction of anybody, even ordinary people, appear to be adventuresome and heroic. An unbelieving world will make a saint out of almost anybody who dares to be faithful. [Quotes found on pages 53-58.}

No comments: