I like to tell stories. I enjoy listening to the stories of others even more. Really good story tellers have a way of recounting a tale or experience in a way that makes you feel like you are not only reliving it with them, but you were actually there—a character role in it. Some of our best storytellers are movies and theatre. Cue “Over the Rainbow’ and I am suddenly Dorothy Gale from Kansas just trying to escape Miss Gulch, or on particularly day dreaming kind of day—just eying Joe Fox and Brinkley coming around the corner in Riverside Park. Oh, Nora Ephron, you ruined me.
The best stories get better every time you hear them, you know? Like your favorite movie makes you laugh harder each time you see it (or cry, depending on your preferred film genre). With each viewing, we pick up more details about the characters and plot. We learn about the makings of the movie, too, and our appreciation only grows. The more we understand it, the more awe, love, and wonder we feel.
I think about the stories of Jesus we hear and we tell regularly. The Christmas story--recounting His birth; and this month, the Easter Story-- chronicling his death and resurrection. This Easter story, the account of the transformative Gospel, the one He is telling in our hearts everyday—are we growing in wonder, awe, and love every time we hear it..tell it? Sweet friends, we are part of the story, by God’s amazing grace. And the Easter story, the experience--the real life account of Jesus, is not one that is reserved for next Sunday morning. The ‘He is Risen’ proclamation and ‘new life’ promise to you and me is only understood if we deeply know the whole account before that Easter morn. For a ‘new life’, one that has been resurrected, there must first be death. Is our heart breaking when we think of our Savior on the cross? Do we truly feel that part of the story? He took the punishment for our sins—our deserved wrath was put on Him.
And, let’s consider our role as we approach Palm Sunday this weekend. Who are we in the Hosanna crowd? In just days, the people of Jerusalem went from praising Jesus to killing Him. Is the story we are telling including ourselves as members of that crowd? Gosh, our daily lives so often depict a convenient Gospel and way of living. I’ll happily wave my palm branches when life looks lovely and at ease. But, can I say I would act much differently than the crowds who turned on Him? If I am part of the story, and the only thing I bring to the plot is my sin, then it is worth considering.
But in His great mercy, the Lord does leave us in that despair and without hope. He loved us while we were still dead. And from death to life He brings us! It’s totally mind boggling, heart wrenching, and seemingly impossible to comprehend the depth of that LOVE. But that is what He did. And that is what He continues to do in our hearts everyday if we allow it. He does it when we wave the palm branches and even when we stray. In our wandering, He pursues us, pulling us back towards Him. He transforms our wandering into Wondering.
In the story I am telling, God is shifting and shaping me to adjust my vision, every single day, towards Him. I turn, anxiously trying to take control, and He gently pulls me back to gaze on Him. Not because He needs my worship or adoration, but because He LOVES me THAT MUCH. And He loves you that much too. He is in pursuit of our hearts, our trust, and the renewing of our minds to His likeness.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)
And sweet friends, let’s please remember that in our own failings, disappointments, and overwhelm of this fallen world, that His grace is sufficient. Do not stay in a confusing story of your own. Be mindful in your manner. Preach His story to your heart and discover your Divine Design in Him. What wonder and what love! May the story of Jesus be one that calls us to know Him as Father, Savior, and Friend.