A Story Gone Wrong

As I write the world is consumed by curiosity and concern about Flight MH370 missing for eleven days over, maybe, the Indian Ocean. Relatives waiting in Kuala Lumpur are upset at being split up because their hotel is needed for an international sports event. Families in China are threatening a hunger strike because they think information is being withheld. Officials feel beleaguered by media requests and international tensions, and in all of it we are praying - praying that the passengers be found safe, but in the plummeting likelihood of this scenario, praying for 239 lost souls and their suffering families.  And why do feel angry, hurt and prayerful? Because we feel deep inside that things like this are not supposed to happen. The world is not supposed to be bombarded with pain, suffering and dead bodies. And yet it is.  This brokenness is one chapter of the Big Story we have been looking at this Lenten season as we focus on the reasons we celebrate Easter.  
Our series - called Engage Gospel - is based on a curriculum designed  by American Presbyterian Ray Jones  and it uses an evangelism tool  called The Big Story.  The simple series of circle graphics was introduced to California students by IVF's James Choung. It looks holistically at the world as it is and as it was meant to be, and explains why humans have a longing to see evil overturned, our environment restored and our relationships healed. This week our sermon focused on the first two circles - the world as it is meant to be and the world as it actually is. The lovely clean lines of the first circle are scribbled over and crossed through because the reality is that things get muddled and broken and then we die. Empires collapse, farmland becomes desert. New houses leak and children turn into teenagers.  Mangetotopo follows Cave Creek. The second law of thermodynamics - that everything tends towards chaos - seems to hold sway in human society too. So how come we have this idea that things shouldn't be like this?

The Bible offers us a poetic explanation of why this is  in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Our preacher on Sunday preempted people's resistance to the notion of Genesis as literature by reminding the modernists  - half the congregation! - that the two most famous stories in the Bible, the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, never actually happened. But by the inspiration of God their truth has been recognised by readers of every faith and none. The truth of the Adam and Eve story is that things were good and then they were damaged. God's spirit is in the Story, not in the debates about the science. The story says God created us for good, that we are made in his image, to be a partner, albeit a junior partner, in the ongoing tasks of the  creation. But we were given a choice and in that choice we ended up damaged and alienated. A Catholic songwriter I like recently blogged that maybe Adam's original sin actually was not so much pride or disobedience, but "placing oneself in the position of telling God that He is not enough." Our hearts are made for God, God alone is to be enough for us, but we insist on looking elsewhere. Intriguing.

James Choung says that what is revealing about the human response to the messed-up world is our discontent. None of us feel that suffering, violence and oppression are good things. We  ache for a better world. Just like hunger points to the existence of food, he says, our longing for a better world points us the possibility of one. Philosophers of religion say that ache means either there was a better world in the past or someone reliable has promised there will be better one in the future. The Bible does both. In the Christian worldview a better world did exist. It worked beautifully under God's leadership. The world was designed to take care of us and us to take care of it, and to flourish in communities where we love and serve each other. We were designed for good. But when we rejected God's leadership, we broke that relationship and became our own god. Evil emerged and did its worst. Evidence of the brokenness and corruption that ensued is all around us. We exploit the world's resources and use other people as objects of our desire. Education, technology and politics never get to the root of the problem. We are damaged by evil.

Next week in our series we will get to the third picture - God's response to that alienation and distress. We will learn how the God who made human beings to be healthy and hopeful sent Jesus to restore a world damaged by evil.  The Big Story is that God’s purpose is to restore humanity so we can have healthy relationships with him, with one another, and with our world. 
On Sunday this moving Nooma video had the last say.

God  is enough.

To Chew Over: What does the story of Adam and Eve say to you? Are you ever tempted to say God is not enough?  

We live to love to serve
To glorify You in all we do
We want to give enough
For the world to see You    (We want to live)

Your mercy reaches through our emptiness
Your kindness fills the undeserving heart
O Word of Life You speak to us with truth and grace
We stand amazed and we are changed because You are

Though we're unworthy Lord to speak Your name
You call us out of darkness into light
To tell the story of this life we've found in faith
And be unafraid and unashamed to give our lives

In the songs we sing
Let Your praises ring
O Risen Jesus Savior King
Nothing else on earth compares to You

We live to love
We live to love to serve
To glorify Your name
We want to live
We live to love
We want to live
We live to love
We live to love
CCLI Song # 5777914  Curtis Stephan | Sarah Hart