Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Bethany Bullet-Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not Quite What I Was Planning is a collection of six word memoirs. Other than the introduction the entire book is a collection of individual’s recollections and/or summations of their lives in only six words. The Introduction of the book recounts a legend that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” was Hemingway’s completed work. Legend continues that he called it his greatest work. The memoir says that thus, “the six-word story was born.”

That isn’t entirely true. I’m not talking about the Hemingway part of the story; I have no idea if that is true or not. I’m talking about the birth of the six-word story. Six-Word stories are found throughout the Scripture, Liturgy, and the Hymnody of the Church. They are common phrases within Christianity and even the faith life of Bethany. In six-word stories over and over again the faith is contained, summarized, systematized, proclaimed, and empowered by the Spirit, lived out in the lives of Christians.

  • “Be holy, because I am holy.”
  • “As for me and my household.”
  • “Take, eat, this is my body.”
  • “Have mercy on me, O God.”
  • “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
  • “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.”
  • “Here I stand, God help me.”
  • “God is good, all the time.”
  • “My stuff is not my stuff.”

These are but a few six-word stories that have held out the promise of God, the faith of the church, and the life of His people.

In our Parish Theme this year at Bethany we will explore pairs of six-word stories under the title of “Six Just Words, Just Six Words.” Each pair will contain words of promise from God, His “Six Just Word” memoir if you will, His action, His declared righteousness and work on our behalf, His Gospel activity, His proclaimed Goodness, His Just Words (6 of them), that engender a corollary response from us, His children. Our “Just Six Words” memoir/response, so to speak are simple, Scriptural promises made by God’s people, made by us, in response to what we have received. There just words – words for regular people, like you and me, declaring we will do things that can only be done by the empowering of God’s Spirit.

By no means are the pairs we will focus on the only six-word stories in Scripture. They are, however, six pairs that tell the entire story of the Christian faith. In fact, if you had to explain the Biblical message to someone in only six pairs of six-word stories, these would accomplish the task. Of any Parish Theme we’ve explored together this one is more practical and has more impact potential than any other. To grasp in your heart the essentials of the Christian faith, something 66 books of the Bible proclaim and tens of millions of volumes that have been written throughout history to expound upon is no small task. Yet, these six-pairs of six-word stories can do just this; capture the essentials of the faith.

We all have a six-word story to tell. When our staff spent time together in August sharing our personal six-word stories, I arrogantly thought about writing, “I only needed two: I’m content.” However, I opted for “I’m content, four words to loan.” Contentment does not mean complacency. Contentment does not equal sloth or laziness. Contentment does not relate to the desire of the hands but rather to the disposition of the heart. You can work hard and be content. You can strive for excellence in your skills, you can pursue gain in knowledge, and you can labor for an expanded territory and be content. Contentment is a realization that all you have, while even gained at the sweat of your brow, is ultimately the very gift of God. I am content. This doesn’t mean I can’t wait to see Bethany add the next Sr. Staffer after we just added one yesterday. Nor does it mean I don’t want us to strive to expand our territory, strive for excellence in our ministry, or gain in our knowledge of Christ, our actions for Christ and our harvest through Christ. It does mean that with thankful hearts we trust all we have is a gift from Him and therefore no glory goes to us and no hurdle will defeat us.

I don’t know what God would Himself pick as His six words? If He were to rend the heavens, come down, and speak just a half dozen sentences – what would it be? I have a sneaking suspicion that if He were to do so it would be complete & succinct, and at the same time open-ended and require a response from us. I have a notion that if God were to give us only ONE Six Word memoir it would be: FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD.

Those words are complete and succinct. And yet they are open-ended and require a response. For God so Loved the World. . .that he gave his one and only son. The God of the universe, the creator of a thousand planted, loved this world and chiefly its inhabitants, created in His own image (yet twisted through the fall), enough that He was content and satisfied to enter the world himself, in His Son, and appease God’s wrath toward sin through Jesus. That is what those six just words mean. Christ bore the guilt of the world, not just my shame, not just your frailties, but humanities “falleness” – the sin of 10, 15, 20 billion people, everyone who has ever lived on this earth and ever will. Jesus hung on the cross not merely as one of us but as all of us. The collective guilt of humanity is what rang in the ears of God as He turned a deaf ear to His Son and forsook and condemned Him in our place. For God so loved the world!

And in just six words the story continues. As a matter of fact, the very words John uses to talk about Jesus in his Gospel’s 3rd chapter are the very words Jesus uses to talk about us in John’s 20th Chapter. Jesus said, “…as the Father has SENT me, so I am SENDING you.” For God so loved the World, that He was content, pleased to no longer raise up prophets & apostles, to remain on earth not in the flesh nor entrust the ministry of the church to an angelic host but to send us. For God so Loved the World...that He sent us into the world with the good news of His Son. Through us, God’s love is known.


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