Friday, June 16, 2006

Tell Me the Story

In U2's version of a lament psalm ("Wake Up Dead Man") Bono pleads,

Tell me,
Tell me the story;
The one about eternity,
And the way it's all gonna be.

This is a common theme in the biblical canon as well. It seems like God is constantly in the business of performing redemptive acts and then talking about them. Virtually every time he addressed his people in Old Testament times he began by reminding them, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Deut. 5:6). Entire chapters of Scripture are devoted to rehearsing God's mighty acts in history (Ex. 15; Ps. 78).

In the church today, however, we often hear that the pastor's message must be "relevant" and "applicable to daily life." God, it seems, is a character in my drama, rather than the other way around.

But when God's people today corporately gather around Word and Sacrament, it is not to re-align God's priorities to match our own, but to re-align and re-orient ourselves to him. He has taken our plotless and pointless lives and rescripted them, writing us into his cosmic drama of which he is the Playwright and Director, and in which Jesus Christ, and not we, has the starring role.

Christ-centered preaching, therefore, does not force the Savior into the sermon or cleverly leap from an obscure text to Jesus, but it takes the trees (the verses being expounded) and properly situates them in the forrest (the larger story of redemption). In a word, faithful preaching addresses a "people who were once not a people" and re-constitutes them as "the people of God" and as newly-added characters in the epic tale that he is telling.