Sunday, December 2, 2007

Living in Act IV, awaiting Act V.

Over the last two days, Northern Seminary hosted a conference on the Bible as God’s Story. It called us to stop letting the world narrate our stories – telling us what life and success is all about (money, sex and power). Rather, we should live in God’s story which He is still working out.

One speaker, Kevin Vanhoozer, described this story as a five-act drama:
Act I: creation
Act II: election of Abraham
Act III: Incarnation (mission of Son)
Act IV: Pentecost (mission of Spirit)
Act V: consummation
Presently we live in Act IV, awaiting Act V in the return of Christ. Yet all the preceding acts form our story too. Another speaker put it: “We are not just people of the Book – we are people of the Story.”

Thoughtful lectures and provocative panel discussions filled the conference. I had an opportunity to preach (briefly) during the final act of worship. The chosen Scriptures for Advent Sunday, (the next day), included Romans 13:11-14 and Matthew 24:36-44, which point to Christ’s return – to Act V!

I suggested that our “sophisticated” culture no longer believes in an Act V. “You Christians have been saying Jesus Christ is returning ever since the beginning. Face the facts. It’s not going to happen.” Yet, unequivocally, Jesus says it will happen and calls us to “Watch, Be Ready.” And Romans 13 adds: “Put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” One of my students, in earlier discussion, confessed that when he work up in the morning, washed, dressed, prepared for work, he didn’t spend much time thinking that he was going to be living in God’s big story that day. He is not alone! But the challenge of Advent, especially as the mad rush to Christmas accelerates, is to recall Act III with wondering worship, and anticipate Act V with serious living in Act IV. I gave a prayer to the conference and boldly said I was going to try to say it at least once every day this week:
Lord Jesus Christ, as I await your coming
Show me your ways,
Teach me your paths.
For you are the God of my salvation.
On you I wait all the day. (Adapted from Ps 25: 4-5)
This should help me with living God’s big story. Perhaps it might help you?

(For more on “The Call to An Ancient Evangelical Future” that sponsored this conference, consult

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