This past Sunday was the last week of our eight month journey through the Bible tracing the metanarrative or grand story of God. Being the last sermon in the series, this sermon served two purposes: 1) a recap of the entire eight months and 2) an arrow pointing forward to our part in The Story.
Five Act Shakespeare Play
Along this journey we used N.T. Wright’s outline of a lost Shakespeare play with the final act missing. This ‘newly discovered’ lay is wonderful, full of drama, passion and amazing insight into the human soul – this play is destined to be a classic on par with Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. The only one problem is that missing last act….
So what do you do? Well, you pull together the best Shakespearean actors and actress on the planet – the ones that know all of Shakespeare’s other plays – you give them all the acts that you have – the first four acts – you have them study them, to enter into the story – to learn and know the characters in the play – then you put on the play with the actors living out the last act within the theme and direction of the first four acts.
This is us – we are in the fifth act of God’s story.
We have the first four acts recorded in the Bible – shoot, we even have the first and last pages of Act 5! We just don’t have the pages in the middle… so what are we going to do? I pray that we learn the first four acts with all our hearts, mind, soul, and spirit – let us enter into the God’s story with all that we are so that we can live out our part in the story in line with those who have gone before us – the cloud of witnesses as the author of the book of Hebrews says.
The Five Act Biblical Metanarrative
While different folks have split up the story of God in different ways, this is the way we ended up sectioning up the biblical metanarrative:
- Act 1
- Scene 1 – Creation
- Scene 1b – Made in the Image of God
- Act 2
- Scene 1 – Leaving the Garden
- Scene 2 – Struggle with kingship – Cain & Able, Noah, Babel
- Act 3
- Scene 1 – The Promise (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob)
- Scene 2 – Exodus
- Scene 3 – In the Desert (Covenant Living)
- Scene 4 – Entering the Promised Land
- Scene 5 – God Alone Is King
- Scene 6 – United Kingdom (Kings Saul, David & Solomon)
- Scene 7 – Divided Kingdom & The Prophets
- Scene 8 – Exile & Return
- Scene 9 – Intertestamental Period
- Act 4
- Scene 1 – The Invasion of God (Jesus Is Born)
- Scene 2 – A New Age Begins
- Act 5
- Scene 1 – The Church: An End-Time Community
- Scene 2 – Church History
- Scene 3 – Our Place in the Story
The Book of Revelation
The book of Revelation gives us a picture of the last scene of Act 5, the end of the end of the end. Yet there is a lot of confusion and mystery about the book as it is written in a strange picturesque way. In reading the book the think to remember is that the entire book is one letter to the first century church in modern day Turkey (Revelation 1:4). John didn’t write the first three chapters for the Christians at that time and the other 18 chapters for the people thousands of years later.
No! It is one letter written to a specific audience during a specific time. However while it is a historical letter with historical meaning, it also points to the future – to a time beyond our time. It is a both/and letter full of meaning and depth that only the Holy Spirit can unpack for us.
Revelations 21:3 is amazing verse as to me it sums up the mission of God throughout the entire Bible:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” – Revelation 21:3
Interesting enough, this verse is a direct echo of Ezekiel 37:27 and Leviticus 26:11-12 before that.
“My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” -Ezekiel 37:27
“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” -Leviticus 26:11-12
It is also noteworthy that John was writing to change the story of the early Christians. The Roman Empire had their own stories, their own images and illusions for their gods and focuses. Just like the USA has the bald eagle, the Stars and Stripes, the White Picket Fence, a chicken in every pot, a land of opportunity where you can pull yourself up by your boot strap
Revelation was a way of giving the believers a new way of looking at the world around them. It reminded them that God is King and He is in control. When death comes, when famine comes, when hardship comes we need to know that Jesus is still on the throne and He is still there walking next to us.
We, the followers of Jesus, are in a battle between two ages – a battle were evil, sin, and death is trying to take us out. This does not mean that sin and death is more powerful than God. Far from it!! Jesus has won, in winning and will win. We just need to recognize that we are in a battle and change the story we are living to match God’s Story.
All too often salvation is pitched as a way to get to heaven. While this is true, we must not reduce the Gospel to just this. Bowing out knees to Jesus means following Jesus. We are taken out of darkness and into light – we get to join Jesus in enlarging His rule and reign throughout the world!!! We get to walk with Him here and now as well as after we die! It is a both/and deal not an either/or!
Friends with Jesus
Jesus said we are His friends, and as friends, He as made know to us all that the Father has taught Him.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. –John 15:14-17
In other words, we get to join with Jesus right now in this place and time to bring justice, light and healing to a corrupt and evil world. Think about that for a minute… we GET to join with Jesus in His mission!! Wow!!
Do you remember this chart?
- God is always at work around you.
- God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
- God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
- God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
- God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
- You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
- You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
Experiencing God….We don’t learn about God; we don’t stand at a distance. We experience Him in a real and personal way!!
We are the actors and the actress in the 5th Act. Our lives must fit within direct continuity of the previous acts. This is why I expect healings – physical, emotional, spiritual. This is why I expect the impossible to happen – Because God did it before and he has not changed Stories!!
The question becomes what are we going to do?
- Are we going to bow our knees and follow the King? Joining Him in what He is going every day?’
- Or are we going too decided good and evil for ourselves? Are we going to walk our own path?