To Be Continued…
This year, our family spent Labour Day weekend about an hour and a half northwest of Calgary at Camp Evergreen where I was speaking at the camp’s fall family retreat. This was the camp I grew up attending as a boy, and it was great to see our kids get to enjoy the same activities—archery, horseback riding, and canoeing—that I enjoyed once upon a time, as well as try out a few that weren’t around way back when I was there (the zip-line and the climbing wall were highlights). Many things had changed (apparently that happens over 20+ years!), but it was still great to be back.
I am never really sure how to approach speaking at retreats. The weekly rhythm of preparing one sermon is much more familiar (and comfortable!) to me; mapping out four talks over a weekend is a bit more challenging. At least for me. So, I do what I often do when I’m not quite sure how to approach a topic or when I am going to be addressing a group I am not familiar: I default to the “big picture” of the story we are a part of as followers of Jesus. I figure we can never be too familiar with the narrative in broad strokes, after all, and what better time than the outset of a new academic year for a reminder?
This year’s refresher course came, in part, via the best children’s bible I have come across thus far: The Jesus Storybook Bible. The story is wonderfully told, and the illustrations are fantastic. It’s not perfect, of course (no book is!) and there are parts of it where my theological antenna goes up, but in my view it is a significant step up from the rest of the pack (there really are a lot of truly abysmal children’s bibles out there!). During each of the four sessions, I read a passage from The Jesus Storybook Bible, and then offered a few of my own reflections around the themes of creation, fall, redemption, and new life that it raised. It is easy for me, when writing sermons/talks, to fall into the temptation of wanting (needing?) to feel learned and insightful and to use all kinds of deep and profound references to thinkers far deeper and more profound than myself. Whenever I read this children’s bible, I am reminded that behind all of the analyzing and theologizing and philosophizing, behind all of exegetical gymnastics and hermeneutical twists and turns that we may (like to) do, lies a very simple and captivating story and a very beautiful hope.
For this morning’s session, I read the last page from The Jesus Storybook Bible which is drawn from the closing pages of the Book of Revelation:
It was hard to squeeze all John saw into words. And fit it onto a page. And cram it into a book. All the words on all the pages of all the books in all the world would never be enough.
“I am the Beginning,” Jesus said, “and the Ending!”
One day, John knew, Heaven would come down and mend God’s broken world and make it our true, perfect home once again.
And he knew, in some mysterious way that would be hard to explain, that everything was going to be more wonderful for once having been so sad.
And he knew that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.
“I’m on my way,” said Jesus. “I’ll be there soon!”
John came to the end of his book. But he didn’t write “The End.” Because, of course, that’s how stories finish.
(And this one’s not over yet.)
So instead, he wrote, “Come quickly, Jesus!”
Which, perhaps, is really just another way of saying…
to be continued…