“In the beginning….” If you were going to write a story about God’s activity in the world, could you think of a better way to begin that story than, “In the beginning”? And if you came to the final conclusion of that story, how would you end such a story? How about, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.”? This is how the story of the Bible begins and ends.
When I was in college I had to take a two semester class called “Systematic Theology.” I had to purchase two books, both of which remain on my shelf in my office (hardly used since the classes ended) that were supposed to tell me everything I needed to know about what the Bible teaches about all kinds of different subjects. We used big words like soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, eschatology (bonus points if you can tell me what these words mean without using Mr. Google) to try and understand God and Scripture. These textbooks were thicker than the Bible itself.
New Testament scholar Scot McKnight talks about shortcuts that people often take to understand the Bible. Some treat the Bible as a collection of laws. Others look at Scripture for its blessings and promises. Still others see Scripture as a Rorschach inkblot for us to project our own ideas upon. Others treat the Bible as a giant puzzle to fit together. The last shortcut is to treat one of the Bible’s authors as a maestro (From The Blue Parakeet, I highly recommend this very accessible discussion of the narrative nature of Scripture).
The Bible, however, is a story. It’s the story of God lovingly creating all things. And of all the creation, God chooses humanity with which to enjoy a genuine relationship. When that backfires (not because God screws it up, but because we do) God goes to incredible lengths to rebuild that relationship. He works through a series of people, growing into a nation of people and ultimately seeks a restored relationship with all humanity. As a story, it’s messier than a simple theology book. It’s more beautiful than a science textbook. It has a deeper meaning than a history text.
In October we’ll be taking a step back to see the big picture of God’s story. At the Bible’s most basic level the story goes something like this: God as King, Man as King, Jesus as King. Along with getting a better understanding of the story of the Bible we’ll also hear more of one another’s stories and see how our individual stories all find their places in God’s story. I’m excited, too, that part of our series will involve a number of individuals choosing to identify with God’s story through baptism.