We've all had the experience of reading a book or watching a movie where the author or director has violated the logic of his/her story. When this happens the whole story suffers and the connection with the story gets fuzzy. I remember having this experience a few years ago while watching the Matrix Trilogy. What got off to such a brilliant start broke down by the second and third installments of the Trilogy. Part of the problem was that the directors violated their own logic - the rules and foundations for their story, and in doing so the once brilliant story unraveled. In contrast I remember reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy around the same time. I was so amazed at the richness of the story. It didn't surprise me to find out that Tolkien had actually written several complete languages and detailed histories for the races of beings that made up the world and stories of middle earth. Tolkien understood something about the link between the logic and the integrity of a story. Tolkien’s writings endure to this day because they are not only very rich with details and subtleties but because they are stories with integrity through and through. They are stories that are written with a well thought out logic that is not transgressed in the telling.
I now wish to turn to a bigger story. As I have been pondering the epic story of the creation, fall, and redemption of mankind and the world I have been awestruck by the way that God, as the author and finisher of the story, has not violated the logic of what he began. One aspect where this is very profound is in the area of relationship. God, who is relational within the Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit, has created a world that is relational to the core. In the fall man experienced death and sickness in all of his relationships – his relationship with his maker, his relationship with his fellow man, and his relationship with the rest of the creation. As one note out of tune on a guitar causes the whole guitar to sound off, so man’s sin caused him to be out of tune with God, his fellow man, and the creation. It’s not that we just need a new song we need to be brought back in tune with God’s original purposes. We need harmony within and without.
Yet even in God’s plan for redemption he has not violated the logic of his story. As his nature is relational, and his original creation was relational even so his plan for redemption is also relational. If God was to break the rules of this story then the very fabric of the story and of all of creation would come apart at the seams.
Even when mankind was estranged, separated and writhing under the curse of sin, God initiated relationship. First with Abraham, then with his descendents – collectively known as Israel. All through the Old Testament we see God relating to Israel as a man relates to his wife - a wife who sleeps around and gives herself to others. Israel is still made up of humans who, like all other humans, suffer under the curse of sin and fail to measure up to God’s purposes.
Jesus again shows us the God who is relational. He enacts a rescue plan from within humanity that is among other things characterized by engaging humanity.
He touches the untouchables.
He reaches beyond the acceptable social norms as he converses with a Samaritan woman and make friends with prostitutes.
He is even made out to be a drunk and a glutton because of the company he keeps.
But ultimately it was what Jesus did on the cross that offers hope for man to be brought back in harmony with God’s original purposes. Jesus not only showed us the God who pursues relationship with man, but the God who removes every obstacle that stands in the way of that relationship.
I’ve always been fascinated with the picture of Jesus shortly after the resurrection when he is seen cooking breakfast for his disciples on the beech. Didn’t he have more important things to do? What do we do with a God like this?
Relational in the beginning
Relational in his pursuit
Relational in his redemption
And relational in his resurrection
Shock and Awe:
A few years ago America’s invasion of Iraq was started with a campaign called “Shock and Awe”, a series a massive bombings that was meant to destroy the Iraqi morale before the invasion began in earnest. Man’s ideas are always of this type – big and noisy, the type of stuff that makes good movies and good pep rallies, and good press conferences. But Jesus said his kingdom would be like yeast spreading throughout dough, like grass growing, like a mustard seed that starts so insignificantly yet grows to a great height.
These are organic words and pictures of kingdom realities.
What started off with this carpenter’s son and a handful of followers in an obscure part of Israel has spread through relationship and grown to millions of people now around the world. The God who is love is spreading his love one person to the next - relational through and through.
Too often we want to by-pass the relational aspects of the kingdom in favor of “Shock and Awe” and Hollywood charm but we must remember that God’s kingdom, his people, his temple are made up of people – community – folks in relationship with their God, other people and creation – people in the process of coming back in tune with the harmony that once existed so long ago.
What we see at the end of the book is heaven coming to earth and relationship between God, man and creation finally restored to their original harmony.
We Christians need to keep this in mind. To make our Christianity simply about words and morals is to miss the very context of the story of which we are invited to be an active part. Through relationship with our God we can become bearers of peace and healing and redemption in the relationships around us and rather than waiting to get to heaven when we die we can bring a little bit of heaven to earth.
[This blog is a bit of a rabbit trail from a recent message I gave at Vineyard church in Kenner. To listen to the audio go to www.vcfk.com and download the message Harmony and Dissonance.]