Giving a New Formation Story

Old ChandlerA few weeks ago our nephew arrived from China. Physically he came from the other side of the world, but his future is opening to an even bigger reversal. He moved from the orphanage into the care of doting parents. Once abandoned in the garbage, now living in American suburbs. Education, possessions, faith, love… everything has changed.

Even his name changed to Taran. He is given the name of the hero in the Prydain Chronicles. It is an adventure of a lowly pig farmer. His path will take him to be High King, but he is first found in slop. The formation story sets the stage for the book and now my nephew.

Of course reality must play out. And therein lies the rub. The stage is often set, but the actors forget their lines. Or they act out an off-broadway flop rather than the epic adventure.

This leads to a deeper thought for me, what is the story of this church?

There is a great formation story here. In a tiny community next to the railroad depot sat a little white church. Complete with a door for men and another for women. The community and church grew together until the the railroad bypassed the stop, racing right through the town. Soon the town disappeared. Eventually it was gobbled up by the larger cities around. But the little church, now with a inclusive door, survived. And grew. The church still bears the name of the host city, but it has outlasted the things of this world.

The stage is set. It is a story to make a difference that lasts into the future and beyond. But a formation story is not destiny. Neither is a given name. Only today’s acts prove our value.

I do not mean to over simplify. Our life is not acted out on a closed stage. Outside events will create tragedy and comedy throughout. Our church, our life, will be a bit of both. For our church – sometimes the train will pass us by, other times the pastor will get confused which door he is supposed to walk through. But today’s reality will be determined by how we act in midst of this story. Yet how do we answer the question – Is our play a story of directionless flop or epic passion?

For our church the value of our story will not be counted in buildings or dollars or attendance. Instead we see the answer in the lives all around. If we see people whose life stories are reversed, like Taran’s, we are midst of a great play. If our acts help people out of the slop of life into God gracious throne room, if  the hungry are feed, if the worthless become valuable, if the broken are healed… If our church provides the hope of a new formation, then our acts will last into eternity. Our church will be a play worth retelling… worth living.

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