In the Beginning was The Story…





It’s that magical hour right now. Each Saturday evening, sometime during the eight-o’clock hour it’s Starbucks time. It’s where I go to relax just for a little bit- unwind- work on my sermon for church tomorrow- and let my wound-up mind unwind a little. So here I sit- the coffee is flowing and the jazz is grooving and the people are all milling.

All week and into part of last week, I was generally milling too. I was thinking about what to preach on tomorrow. I kept thinking back to when I first read the entire Bible through with my (then) pristine Message Bible (now mummified in several sticky layers of Duct Tape). In high school I picked up the Bible and decided I wanted to read and reason for myself- feel out with my own mind and heart- the book which claims such a keen foundation to my faith. Doing this meant a lot of things- like ownership- and dedication. Enough people throughout the ages have already ‘bla’ ‘bla’ ‘bla ed’ their way through all that junk, though.

What got me was as I first sat down to read it, it was like I could literally feel God sit down with me to read it, too. I remember sitting in my room in this big goose-down stuffed easy chair I got from my Grandpa Freeman- the radio on softly somewhere in the background- low lighting and the hum of an Albuquerque evening throbbing outside. And there we sat- devouring the book like it was hot Vanilla Chai, it grew to be a time in my life where I can honestly say I felt God all the time. I don’t really know how to rightly describe it, I only know it’s something which, every now and again- still gives me goosebumps. I am a different man then back then. I don’t know if what I was feeling was just religious warm fuzzies or not, but I know- I remember- I can still feel the clear contrast of the feel- like someone very special in the room- a wife- a father- a sister- a brother- there just next to you. Sharing something epic and real and moving. It was like a journey across time and space and a billion realms.

In the beginning, you start so small and unassuming. And as you read with this guy about this story you yourself are wound up in- you realize this whole book- this whole story is really about you. Which is incredible. That best selling book- that single, solitary volume which litters hotel rooms and dusts quietly in churches and fills up shelves in countless different versions. Is really about you. You.

Adam is Your dad.
Eve is Your mom.
God is Your God (whether you believe it or not- know it or not)

And here, is what they did.

And this great story-
this great- noble- awesome- terrible- holy story had continued- page after page- book after book- life after life- down through how ever many years from person to person- to you. Right now. Today.



This is for you.

The glory is your own glory.
The shame is your own shame.
You hold within both your own hands and your very self, the exact same capacity as Cain or David or Joseph or Judas. You are apart of this human family. You are literally a child of God.

And so I read- on and on I read- often late into the night for weeks and months. (It took me a couple, I think)

John 1:1-18

The Message (MSG)

The Life-Light

1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.
3-5 Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.
6-8 There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.
9-13 The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.
14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.
15 John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”
16-18 We all live off his generous bounty,
        gift after gift after gift.
    We got the basics from Moses,
        and then this exuberant giving and receiving,
    This endless knowing and understanding—
        all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.
    No one has ever seen God,
        not so much as a glimpse.
    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
        who exists at the very heart of the Father,
        has made him plain as day.
The reason I never preach out of either Hebrews or Revelation is because I feel like they demand context. And if you haven’t read the Harry Potter BOOK series, you haven’t really earned the right to watch the films. Hebrews and Revelation don’t really make much sense otherwise. Context is everything. 
When I was at Central Christian College of the Bible, there was this professor, Franke. And Franke was a good ‘ol boy, slick-backed hair, preacher type extraordinaire. And you always knew you were in trouble when he brought out the ‘guns.’  Whenever he got really worked up (usually over stuff like Baptism, the NASB or the denomination of the Church of Christ) he would make his hands into guns and start pointing -or aiming- around the classroom like a convenience store robber out for blood. And during those fateful classes when you felt like you were dodging theological bullets like something out of the Matrix, one of Franke’s mantras was, and I quote, “Remember the AIM of the author’s meaning!” AIM stand for ‘the Author’s Intended Meaning’.
Context is everything. And not just hermeneutics or thanatology or systematic theology (by the way, some guy named Peter Abelard in 1100 France invented those things…). I’ve heard it said that Jesus already has enough stalkers… people who have memorized everything about him, but they don’t know him- like I know Steph or you know me… I mean, how creepy would it be if I came into your house every week and just watched you. Strained to memorize random facts about you and then met up with other similar people just so we could compare notes… 
When you pick up this book. This bible. This is not something else. This is not another thing. This is not anything else, but your story. You are in here. The AIM of the Author’s meaning isn’t the propagation of creepy stalkers and creepy stalker facts and tracts. 
The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
This is for you. Because it is about you. This is for you because all this is for you. Jesus is your Brother. God is your Father. We are all family and all this is going somewhere.  And all of it- every last iota, means something. And God said it was Good. 

Like what you read? Join in with your own insights, stories and art- send them to Thanks and God bless -Ryan

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