So last night I went, for the first time, to Grace Fellowship, a community ministry of the Highland Church. Grace is in a lower socio-economic area of town, and it’s primary goal is to take church to the people. One of my favorite aspects of Grace, is that across the street there is a community garden, where the neighbors can go plant, harvest and eat their own fruit and vegetables.
But that got me thinking.
A Garden is a pretty loaded term in the Bible. It’s our beginning. It’s where everything is as God intended, God’s presence fills the land. But that’s not the story we live in anymore.
During the assembly at Grace, a guy named David was going through the Gospels with everyone. He did a great job of connecting the world of Scripture to the world that we live in.
And that got me thinking.
That’s really the task of preaching isn’t it? Really it’s the task of any kind of gospel story-telling. Trying to move this from past to present. From Word to Flesh.
The story David preached was about a priest named Zecheriah. It’s the story that Luke chooses to open up his gospel with. Once a year, the Jewish religious leaders would choose, at random, a priest to go offer sacrifices in the Holy of Holies. Some priests might go their entire lives serving in the priesthood and never receive this honor. And Zecheriah was old, so he’d might have started thinking that would be his story. But his turned out to be his year…in more ways than one.
See Zechariah and his wife had never had a child. In a culture, where not having children was seen as a curse, they were barren. But all that was about to change.
Because, while he was in the Temple, Zecheriah gets visited by the Angel Gabriel, who tells him that he and his wife are going to have a baby.
Now, think about this, does this sound familiar to anyone else? They’re a really old couple, they are barren, and they are well past child-bearing age. And God breaks in and says words they had waited decades to hear. You’re gonna be a daddy.
This is eerily similar to the promise that God made Abraham; The father of his faith. It was a story that if you were to ask Zecheriah about, he could quote it backward. It was a story that he believed with all his heart. Or at least he would say he did.
Until it happened to him.
Zecheriah starts arguing with the angel, like you do, reminding him about that biology class that he had taken in high school, and about how impossible this whole thing was. People who are his age retire and play golf in Florida. They don’t have babies
And perhaps this is the most difficult thing about Scripture. It refuses to remain historic.
See I think Zecheriah’s problem is our problem. Most Jesus-followers I know probably attempt to have pretty orthodox theology. They care about what the story of God is really trying to say, but the problem is that it’s not just trying to say something. It’s trying to do something.
Maybe this is what it means when it says this story is Alive and active. It’s not a stagnant fairy tale. The Scriptures are actually making pretty big demands on our lives.
Maybe the most suprising thing about the Bible is not that these stories happened, but that they happen.
So we preach stories that connect one world to another. We prepare to put a fresh life on an old story.
We plant Gardens to make our little area of the world more like it one day was and one day will be again.
Because it happens.