Missing Jesus: The Human Story

Jennifer Lopez was interviewed on Good Morning America last summer following her 3rd divorce. The interviewer asked if she would consider getting married again, and she replied “'Yes, for me the biggest dream is the fairytale. I will never give up on that dream.” 

Despite being the first Latina to earn a million for a single movie role, becoming the first person to have a number one album and film in the same week, not to mention being beautiful and having more money than she could ever need, J. Lo is still looking for something she has not found. And, she is convinced it is a fairytale.

One girl wrote in a  Blog"This is the grand disappointment of my twenties: that there is no happily ever after and that there is no guy that can fulfill that dream. Everyone I know buys into the fairy tale, yet everyone I know is bringing home regular, nice guys. Maybe there is no Darcy [from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"]. Maybe those lines that guys say in movies are just that: lines in movies. But it's so disappointing!" 

My husband, Joe and I watch the x-factor. A few years ago there was a girl on show named Rachel Crow—she was 13 years old and the cutested thing with a huge beautiful voice and personality. When she was asked what she would do with all the money if she won the X-factor, she said she would buy her family a house where she wouldn’t have to share a bathroom. All five of us share one bathroom she explained, and a girl needs a bathroom. Ok, lots of people all over the world share bathrooms with more than five people maybe some of us here do, not a big deal.

But it turns out Rachel has had a challenging life. She was taken by child services from a Crack Den as a baby—where she had suffered abuse until she was adopted by the loving Crow family. In many ways, she has her happy ending, yet she is looking for more.

Leonardo DiCaprio decided at the age of 6 that he wanted to be an actor. In a recent interview with DiCaprio now 38—one of the most famous actors in the world said this:

“You learn, after you’ve been in the business for a while, that fame is empty and pointless,”

In every great story there is a moment which changes the main characters life forever. Just to take a story we all know too well, think of Cinderella. The moment in which the Prince slides the glass slipper on her foot—and the shoe fits—is the climax of the story. Her life is forever changed. She becomes a princess.

Often we are going through life looking for, working for, waiting for that moment. The perfect line, the job, to win the contest, to marry the princess, to buy a home.

Donald Miller says it like this:

A kid can try to make the football team and in a moment of climax see his name on the coach’s list.

A girl can want to get married and feel euphoric when the man of her dreams slides a ring on her finger. But…these are substories.

 When that kid makes the football team, he is going to find out that playing football is hard, and he’s going to find himself in the middle of yet another story.

 And the girl is going to wake up three months into her marriage and realize she is, in fact, still lonely, and so many of her issues haven’t gone away.

And if both of these people aren’t careful, they’re going to get depressed because they thought the climax to their substory was actually a climax to the human story, and it wasn’t. The human story goes on.

Miller, Donald (2009-08-26). A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story (Kindle Locations 2218-2219). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

A Different Story

Jesus is concerned with a different story than we are—the Human Story. He wasn’t American. He didn’t care about a successful career or a house with a white picket fence.  He didn’t care about fame. He had never watched a Disney Fairtale, and as far as we know he never showed any interest in marriage.

The people around him in the first centry middle east like us were caught up in other stories. Jesus’ people—the Jews were waiting for a hero King to overthrow the Roman government and set them free from the oppression of over taxation and lack of religious freedom.

Others were waiting for God himself to come and free them—so that God would be their king as he originally intended.

But when Jesus came, both the hero and God King—they didn’t recognize him as such. It wasn’t that he didn’t have the characteristics of the hero king or even God. He was able to bring people from all walks of life together. He healed people with authority they had never seen before, but Jesus was telling a different story than they had been telling.

He was talking about being in charge—and he acted as if he was in charge of the wind and the waves and over diseases and deamons—but he didn’t show any interest in overthrowing the Roman government. So, try as he might to invite them into his the Epic Human Story, they didn’t get it.

 It was near Passover—the biggest holiday of the year and Jesus wanted people to get it. So he sent his associates—his friends—the people the bible calls his disciples into Jerusalem to bring him a donkey colt for him to ride into the city. In doing so, Jesus was fulfilling prophecies of old and showing people that he was the King.

So, the disciples brought him the colt and he rode it into the city. Crowds gathered around him, they placed clothes and palm branches on the ground in front of him—it seemed like they were finally getting it.

Luke 19:37-40

37-38 Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed:

Blessed is he who comes,
    the king in God’s name!
All’s well in heaven!
    Glory in the high places!

39 Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!”

40 But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”

Despite all of the prophetic symbolism, the religious leaders—the Pharisees didn’t get it.

41-44 When the city came into view, he wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late.

And Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem.

In his follower Luke’s account Jesus finishes his prophecy saying, “All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.”

 My Story within the human story

The same Jesus of the first century, of the bible--is inviting us into his story today. If we center our lives around our own substories—we are bound to be disappointed. And not only that, but we will  miss the story that Jesus is telling.

But if we center our lives around the grand narrative—the epic—the human story in which Jesus is the climax—the turning point of the story—I am convinced we will live much more full and satisfied lives. I’m not saying everything will be perfect—but it will be better.

I know for me when started making decisions based on the greater human story rather than my own story—my personal substories started getting a lot more exciting. I’ll tell you what I mean.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid—in fact a church planter’s kid. So we never had much money, only what was needed to get by. In fact I can remember one time when we didn’t have enough—but a grocery bag full of food showed up on our front porch. God’s provision was an assumption, so I wasn’t concerned. And wealth wasn’t that attractive to me.

And while I wanted to be famous as a kid, I grew out of that.  

But as I got older the thing I did care about—or rather obsessed about was meeting the man of my dreams and living happily ever after. Throughout most my twenties it was constantly “Is this the right guy, or is that?  I was constantly waiting and looking for that moment that would change my life forever.

But finally in 2007, I reached a turning point and gave up. I was 26 and my parents had moved to India to plant a church. I was graduating from seminary and while most of my friends were getting married—I was recovering from a heart-break.

So, while these same friends launched into their careers, I felt called not to pursue marriage or my career but to join my parents in India for a year. I went to India—to do the stuff—Jesus stuff --to be a part of his story. And, those were some of the happiest days of my life.  I ended up starting a training school for young leaders in the Vineyard in India.

A few years later—that 1 year turned into 2 and half years in India—I was praying and I felt called back to the states--this calling was confirmed by a few trusted mentors and friends. I met Joe—my now husband—and it seemed more specific I was called to Chicago.

It would have been easy to get totally focused on my own sub-story again at that point, and sometimes I did—sometimes I do. I had moved to Chicago in the middle of the recession and ended up trudging through snow to work at starbucks at 5am.

But I knew that I wasn’t only in Chicago to date and marry Joe Negussie—God had more in mind…I was called to be a part of this bigger story. And this here today, is part of that bigger story.

It is easy for us to be so focused on our story that we try to fit Jesus into it---rather than ask how we can be a part of Jesus’ story—the human story. This morning I am asking you, in what ways have you let your sub-story overshadow the human story? Are you ready to centered your life around Jesus?

Just the other day, I found myself in need of this re-centering. I was having a difficult and stressful day, and a close friend of mine was only making matters worse. Instead of encouraging me and giving me a hug, this friend said I was stressing her out and to knock it off.

I felt so hurt, and even mad that she would treat me like that. I was crying as I drove and suddenly felt like Jesus was saying, but I care about how you’re feeling I’m with you in this. She’s not me—forgive her—and receive what you need from me. I slept really well that night.

 

This was a message I gave at Vineyard City North's first preview service Church & Bowl on Sunday June 9th. 

 

 

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