Where To Turn In A World Of Competing Narratives

Grace For The Journey

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25Feb  In Psalm 73. Asaph reminds us why it is so important to be in church on Sunday mornings.  He begins this Psalm bewildered by the conflict of what he believes to be true in his heart and what seems to be true in the culture.  In verses 1-3, He writes, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

While Asaph knows in the depth of his soul that God is good to the pure in heart, everything around him seems to proclaim – from the workplace, magazine racks , the news, the movies, Facebook, and politics – a contradictory truth: “The wicked prosper.”

He describes his bewilderment in verses 4-9, “For they have no pangs in their death, but their strength is fir.  They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.  Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.  Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.  The scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily.   They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth.”

The horrifying story unfolding before Asaph’s eyes seems so true, and it threatens to override the truth hidden in his own heart.

What are we to do

When the narratives

Playing out in society

Are a direct affront

To our Christian faith?

We are surrounded by conflicting stories; how do we keep our feet from stumbling into false narratives?  Asaph shows us the way.

Postmodernism and False Narratives.

I remember the first time I encountered the word postmodernism.  It was in the early 2000s, and Christians were certain postmodernism was going to be the downfall of society.  At the time, postmodern thought in my limited understanding boiled down to one basic tenet: Truth is relative.  It was a dangerous truth claim to be sure.

What I realize now is how I failed to comprehend the point of a postmodern perspective.  Someone has rightly perceived, “postmodernism was descriptive before it was prescriptive.”  The mantra, “Truth is relative” . . .

Was not necessarily

The way Postmoderns

Wanted the world to be;

It was simply the way

The world already operated.

Postmodernism sought to remove the masks and reveal the power struggles beneath the surface.  What was really happening when individuals, political parties, genders, races, classes, or religious organizations claimed to have the truth on their side?  From a postmodern perspective, truth is never really about truth.  Truth is about power.  To the postmodern world . . .

Truth is easily refashioned

To fit whatever narrative

One’s team is pushing.

And whoever controls

The narrative

Controls the world.

Certainly, we cannot deny this is often the case today.  Everyone is pushing a narrative.

  • Network and Cable News push narratives.

You will hear two totally different accounts of the “facts” depending on which network you choose.  That is because each has a story it is telling, and that story is aimed at expanding the power of their team.

  • Politicians push narratives.

The strange thing is that we all know this.  Pundits perform fact checks after debates and town halls, and we are never surprised to find that a politician has stretched the truth – or even fabricated the truth – in order to further the story he or she is trying to sell to the public.  And why?  It’s all aimed at election. It’s a vie for power.

  • Social media push narratives.

Instagram and Pinterest are telling tales about what the good life looks like. Twitter is weaving together stories to shape the narrative of social justice and to control whose voices deserve to be heard.  Facebook – well, who knows what Facebook’s narrative is these days.  But all stories being told by these platforms aim at one thing: maintaining the power, status, and importance of social media in society.

  • Hollywood pushes narratives.

Whether through award shows, celebrity activists, or the content of its art, television and movies are weaving together narratives through the telling and retelling of stories.  They are telling us something about the regal place of entertainment in society.

We Need a True Story.

The point is, we live in a storytelling world.  And that is . . .

Why you and I need

To be in church

On Sunday morning.

Asaph wandered around

Wearied and discouraged

By the narratives of this world,

Until he entered

A space shaped

By a different narrative.

A space –

And a people –

Shaped by God’s story.

He writes in verses 16-17, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.”

It was when Asaph entered the sanctuary of God . . .

When he entered

The presence

Of God’s people,

When his ears were

Filled with God’s Word,

That the narratives

Of this world

Lost their power.

He was comforted

By the narrative

Of the unbending,

Unshakeable truth –

God’s truth.

We spend six days moving about in a world that seems to proclaim, “The wicked prosper! The wicked prosper! The wicked prosper!”  And if we are not careful, we grow to envy the proud.  We become jealous of co-workers who succeed by clawing their way to the top.  Our appetites and desires are shaped by daily scrolling through social media.  We begin to believe that politics will save us.  And for six days, our hearts grow sick with worry, anxiety, doubts, and temptation because we begin to believe the false narratives the devil proclaims in an effort to exercise power over us…

Until . . .

  • We enter the sanctuary of God.
  • Until we hear God’s people singing about the wonder of God.
  • Until we are still before God, stand His honor, kneel in prayer, and sing praises to God.
  • Until we read aloud the truths of God’s Word.
  • Until we confess our sins and hear afresh the grace of God given to us in Christ.
  • Until we lay our treasures at His feet.
  • Until we taste and experience His presence.
  • Until we hear the eternal Word of God and our hearts are kindled afresh by the only true story in all of the universe.

This is why we so desperately need Sunday mornings.

Sunday worship among the gathered people of God is a rehearsing, a retelling, and a reliving of God’s story – the narrative of salvation history.  We live the story together of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Re-creation.

It is a reminder

That despite the narratives

Around us that proclaim,

“The wicked prosper,”

Jesus Christ,

The Crucified and Risen Savior

Is still on His throne.

When we stand in the sanctuary, the story is reset.  The truth reigns!  And we proclaim with Asaph, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:24-26

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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