[Ashley is a friend and fellow Baptist minister. The following was his attempt of telling the Bible's story on Bible Sunday a few weeks ago.]
The big story of the Bible starts with
It starts with God speaking.
And God's first words in this story are,
'Let's have light',
'Let's have sky, sea, land, trees, plants, whales, fish, birds, animals',
'Let's have people, men and women, boys and girls'.
That's what God said.
And from his words everything was created. Big, small, powerful,
delicate, bright, beautiful,
and good, very good.
But sadly not for long.
Sadly all that God had created was spoiled.
And it was the people that he had made,
the people who were the last and best of all that he created,
it was the people that spoiled it.
God had made them for friendship.
But they thought they could do better than that.
Despite all that God had given them they wanted even more.
They wanted to be like God.
And so they broke God's only rule
and they broke God's heart.
The big story becomes a family story.
At the head of the family are Abraham and Sarah,
and their story,
and the story of his sons,
and their wives and children,
takes us back to God's original purpose:
friendship. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob enjoy the friendship of God...
most of the time.
As their friend,
God wants them to have a home,
a place of their own, a land,
where they will learn to live
as God's friends,
as friends together, where they will model to the world
what living as God's friends looks like.
But before they can move in they have to get there.
And getting there
turns out to be harder
and take longer
than Abraham or his family imagined.
For they are still like the people who broke God's heart.
Every step in the right direction
is followed by one that takes them the wrong way.
And they end up in the wrong place.
The family story becomes a rescue story.
Through a man named Moses
God speaks to Egypt.
'Let my people go'.
At first Egypt refused and so God tried to persuade them.
He tried one thing after another until they got the message.
And it was a bitter message for Egypt, especially for Egypt's mothers, and fathers.
With Moses leading them
God's people are back on the road
to the home he had promised.
But before they can go there
God wants to restore their friendship.
And to help them remember
he writes down what it means.
For him and for them.
For him to be their God.
For them to be his people.
Ten important words.
Ten words of life.
The family story becomes a nation's story.
The people are home in the land God promised to Abraham.
But being a nation is tougher than being a family.
Especially if you're still like the people who broke God's heart.
Living in the land alongside one another is hard for them.
Living with suspicious neighbours is harder.
There are skirmishes.
With Edom, with Moab, with Philistia.
There are colourful characters – Deborah, Gideon, Samson –
and outrageous stories.
And it all ends with Samuel.
Samuel is the last because...
The nation's story is now the story of kings...
Saul is the first king,
he's impressive, but impatient.
David is next, only a boy,
but the boy who slew a giant.
He's not perfect,
in fact so far from it that we might wonder what God saw in him,
the answer was a heart that wanted to enjoy God's friendship more than anything.
Which was, we remember,
God's purpose all along.
And then there was Solomon.
Some say he was wise.
And some say it was his foolishness that broke the nation into two parts.
While the kings prospered the people didn't always do so well.
And often, even with David, God got forgotten.
The ten words didn't help.
The kings ignored them.
The people ignored them.
God's rules and God's heart were broken again and again.
Sometimes the people acted as God's friends.
Sometimes they didn't.
So God chose prophets, people like Elijah and Isaiah, Amos and Jeremiah,
and he sent them to speak,
to remind the people who they were,
to remind them about their friendship,
to warn them of the trouble they were making for themselves.
And of what was happening in the nations around...
The story of kings and prophets becomes a disaster story.
One part of the kingdom disappears.
The other part is gone.
The prophets say that God has judged his people.
The prophets say that God is no fool.
The prophets say that God's friendship cannot be abused or taken for granted.
Exile was a disaster worse than slavery in Egypt.
Now the people had really lost something.
God's gift of home, of land, of an identity,
Some wondered if the story would end there.
But it didn't...
God brought the people back from exile,
back to their land,
and they rebuilt
their homes, their towns and cities,
but it wasn't the same.
Exile had changed things.
And God was silent, their world was wordless,
for 400 years. Until...
Jesus was born
in an obscure little place called Bethlehem.
He was the first son of a fairly ordinary peasant couple.
He was nobody,
and almost nobody noticed,
when he was born.
And yet in this story he turns out to be...
the very author of the story itself.
The disaster story becomes the story of God's great surprise.
As he enters the story in the most unexpected way.
God becomes a baby...
a young man.
He makes friends.
He speaks about the way that friends of God will live.
He forgives those who have broken God's rules and broken God's heart.
What he says, what he does, everything about him, draws people to him.
They become friends with God again.
Hearts were changed.
Lives were changed. It was amazing....
It was …
never going to last.
Not among a people who still wanted to be like God.
Who still thought that their way was better than his.
Jesus made enemies and those enemies conspired to kill him.
Together they betrayed, tortured, denied, abandoned,
crucified, mocked, and murdered
Even though it was his story, his world, and they were his people.
For a moment the whole story collapsed
into one single life,
as all ambition, greed, jealousy, rage, bitterness,
all that spoils and destroys what God made
found itself undone on the cross
as Jesus died.
That end was also
as three days later,
from the grave,
resurrection, a freed humanity.
'Goodness was stronger than evil
light was stronger than darkness
life was stronger than death.'*
And as Jesus drew
resurrection breath into his lungs
new life burst into the world
and friendship, true friendship,
became possible again,
possible for all people,
in God's story.
The big story of the Bible,
the story of a family,
that became a nation,
the story of kings and prophets,
the story of Egypt and Exile,
of rescue and disaster,
the story of friendship sought and lost and found again,
because of Jesus,
is now the story of the Church.
The story began again in Jerusalem,
began again at Pentecost,
when the Spirit of Jesus came to live in his friends,
and it spread across the known-world,
to Antioch in Syria,
to Galatia and Ephesus,
to Macedonia and Philippi,
to Crete, Cyprus and Rome.
And as the story spread,
and as the Church grew,
more and more people became God's friends
and started to live the way friends should.
The big story of the Bible,
the story of the Church,
is our story,
because Jesus makes it possible for us to enjoy God's friendship too.
He has written us in.
The Bible might have a last page
but God's story is still being told.
In our lives.
And through our words...
* Based on words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu