One summer I read Michael Ondaatje’s book The English Patient for a literature class I took at Baylor. Fittingly enough, I took this class as an elective during my first semester at seminary— when I began my journey of learning how to be an “equipper of the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12). As I read the story, I found myself intrigued how the English patient carried a book with him everywhere he went. He wrote in it and placed photographs in it, too, so that I thought it was a journal.
“Pass me my book so I can write, please...” he frequently whispered to his nurse. She always did so with a smile, then he wrote whatever it was that he had done since the last time he had written.
One time, however, I noticed something strange: “Would you like me to read to you?” the nurse asked.
“Yes, please... from Herodotus...”
To my surprise, she picked up his journal— the same book in which he had been writing his thoughts, placing his relics, and saving the deepest secrets of his hurting soul, a soul which longed to return home to his one true love.
Do you see what he was doing?
The book he kept was Herodotus’ The Histories. He wasn’t merely jotting down his thoughts about his life. More importantly and symbolically, he was writing himself into history. He was trying to find his place, to live a life that— in the bigger scheme of reality— mattered.
Now consider this: We’ve been given a Biblical narrative which contains a past and a future. That is, at some point around two thousand years ago Jesus came and started the process of reconciliation. This is salvation history of the history past. Also, we know that at some point in the future— maybe the near future or perhaps the far-off future— He will come and inaugurate the fulfillment of God’s eschatological Kingdom and eternal community. This is salvation history of the future. But we find ourselves in the salvation history of the present, a text of which is unwritten in the Biblical meta-narrative of which we are a part.
Is the book of Acts closed, so that the history of the Church– the people of God– is over?
I think not.
In their book Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be, J.Richard Middleton and Brian J.Walsh liken our precious predicament to that of a group of actors who find an unfinished Shakespearean play which they discover lacks the second-to-the-last scene. Certainly, they wouldn’t dream of leaving the drama unfinished. Because of the importance of their discovery, they would devote themselves wholeheartedly to seeing the project to its conclusion.
To complete the drama, though, they would need to study Shakespeare’s other plays as well as the beginning of this play they are trying to finish. They would have to be true to his dialogue, to his character development, and to the end he already wrote. In a real sense, we would have to somehow get inside his mind, think like him.
Middleton and Walsh suggest that we, as the actors ordained to finish the Biblical script, possess the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5-8). Further, rather than trying to guess what the author might have intended or which direction the author might have wanted to go with the unfolding drama, we have true and real “access to the Author of [our] story... who invites us to participate in a genuinely open future in which we can indeed make a difference.”
For the past few hundred pages of text (if you’ve read straight through!) and 20-something talks (if you've listened!), we’ve worked through four broad headings. I’ve sketched them here for you.
Let’s review how they fit together—
When we “live that loop,” and stay in the sweet spot of our identity, the Lord’s presence, allow Him to express Himself through us, and continue maintaining a healthy perspective, we naturally cease striving and live life from an overflow of His grace and goodness. This enables us to complete our part in the overarching story of redemption.
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