The Charis Store

The health food store is right next to a liquor store on one side and an adult book store on the other. Both of those stores have large sliding doors that invite everyone in. In the middle of these stores is an inviting store called “The Way”. It proclaims health and wholeness in the windows. The door is easily entered, although certainly not as humongous as the ones next door.

Curious strangers gaze in at the people. The health food store regulars are of varying sizes and shapes. As the onlookers come back week by week they actually see that the health food store has an affect on the people inside. They begin to become like the picture of health that is found above the counter.

Nothing holds anyone back from entering – well, perhaps the bright lights and glare from next door, and the people who keep telling you that you really shouldn’t get mixed up with that group – “they’re fanatics”. For some it’s the realization that, once they walk through the door, this is a new life that they will enter into.

One day you venture in. The inhabitants of the store point to the food all that surrounds you. This is a gift, they say. There is no price for the food.  A long time ago, an investment group bought the neverending food supply.  

The brand name is “Charis”. Not a usual name, but it sticks in your mind. “Charis”. The caretakers of the food point out that care has been taken to only stock food that is good for you. Some food may not taste great on first swallow. Some tastes delicious. Some people like certain foods and others cross the aisle and pick out something else.

The Charis people learn after a while that, to get the full benefit and nutrition, they have to try all the food.  Each food supplements the other.  Since it’s free, why not!

“What are we trying to do in this store?” the main proprietor asks. “Next door they proclaim sights that will blind you and drinks that will numb you. We would rather talk about shalom. All this food works together for your good, for a well rounded life. We find people who come in through the door look at the shelves, and can’t believe it. For a while they get stuck over there – but hopefully they move on to the other shelves. Their whole selves begin to take on a new, healthy form.”

Then you remember hearing about this store from people who were out on the street with you. The health food store patrons breathed a whole different life. They had that Charis and shalom about them. 

The owners have an actual vision and blueprint for the future. In the end, the final phase of construction for the store is expansive.  This current store finally takes over the whole block, in fact the whole city. Call it heaven, if you will.  When that store finally happens, the expectation is that people will have that perfect set of bodies that are fit and each step they take is full of enthusiasm.

That’s where people want to be!

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Everyone is looking for a Messiah

Two community meetings in one week — both with an unnoticed but prophetic tone.

The first was a meeting of a regional group called DAWN — Drug and Alcohol Wellness Network.  The group is attempting to get local communities to stem the destruction of drug and alcohol in their respective areas.

The team has worked on various general directions and now is into strategies.  As we are now talking about initiating local committees, a theme is and will emerge. 

Unless you have a champion(s) to lead the charge, the hill will never be taken.

We’ve seen that in our town.  Two leaders are emerging.  Without that central coordination the effort would have died a few months ago.  Without that driving force our community would still be lounging in indifference.  Without that personal contact person(s) the facelessness would have made the effort impersonal and merely professional.  Instead, though the effort is slow, there is progress.

The second was a meeting of youth and youth leaders with our town leadership.  The forum was an opportunity for youth to express their thoughts — particularly as it pertains to what our town should do for youth.

Out of the meeting arose a common theme — we need a coordinator who knows what is going on in various youth areas around the town.  A coordinator who can motivate the various agencies to work collaboratively together.  A coordinator who carries the concern for youth deep in their bones.  Not someone just hired to do a job, not someone just hired to manage, not someone just hired to fill out the administrative chart.

A few weeks ago, the arts, culture and heritage section of the town said the same thing.  “We need a coordinator.” 

Now, not to turn this into a matter of semantics, but each group was asking for a Messiah.  Someone to serve as the leader, the coordinator, the facilitator. 

Years ago, people were in the same mood.  They saw a possibility in a man called Jesus.  They enlisted him.  He agreed that they needed, and that they had a Messiah in him.  He just had a different job description than the one they had tucked away in their minds. 

As he rolled out His job description in stark words over one short week, one of his own closest disciples turned on him.  Those who had always been opposed to him, thinking previously about what they should do to him, now began to ask how they could eliminate him — kill him.

At the end of the week, the people upheld their need for a Messiah. 

If he couldn’t fulfil their expectations, the best idea was to shelve him and look for another Messiah.  One week was long enough to figure that out.  “Crucify him” was a logical next step towards finding that next Messiah.

For those who stood with him, even though not sure of the final outcome, the Messiah began to infiltrate their whole being — some immediately, others little by little. 

Their lives began to take on a mirror image of the Messiah.  Their lives began to reflect Messiah to their communities.  They became little Messiah’s wherever they walked and talked. 

Everyone is looking for a Messiah.

Everyone is looking for a Messiah

Two community meetings in one week — both with an unnoticed but prophetic tone.

The first was a meeting of a regional group called DAWN — Drug and Alcohol Wellness Network.  The group is attempting to get local communities to stem the destruction of drug and alcohol in their respective areas.

The team has worked on various general directions and now is into strategies.  As we are now talking about initiating local committees a theme is and will emerge. 

Unless you have a champion(s) to lead the charge, the hill will never be taken.

We’ve seen that in our town.  Two leaders are emerging.  Without that central coordination the effort would have died a few months ago.  Without that driving force our community would still be lounging in indifference.  Without that personal contact person(s) the facelessness would have made the effort impersonal and merely professional.  Instead, though the effort is slow, there is progress.

The second was a meeting of youth and youth leaders with our town leadership.  The forum was an opportunity for youth to express their thoughts — particularly as it pertains to what our town should do for youth.

Out of the meeting arose a common theme — we need a coordinator who knows what is going on in various youth areas around the town.  A coordinator who can motivate the various agencies to work collaboratively together.  A coordinator who carries the concern for youth deep in their bones.  Not someone just hired to do a job, not someone just hired to manage, not someone just hired to fill out the administrative chart.

A few weeks ago, the arts and culture section of the town said the same thing.  “We need a coordinator.” 

Now, not to turn this into a matter of semantics, but each group was asking for a Messiah.  Someone to serve as the leader, the coordinator, the facilitator. 

Years ago, people were in the same mood.  They saw a possibility in a man called Jesus.  They enlisted him.  He agreed that they needed, and that they had a Messiah in him.  He just had a different job description than the one they had tucked away in their minds. 

As he rolled out His job description in stark words over one short week, one of his own closest disciples turned on him.  Those who had always been opposed to him, thinking previously about what they should do to him, now began to ask how they could eliminate him — kill him.

At the end of the week, the people upheld their need for a Messiah. 

If he couldn’t fulfil their expectations, the best idea was to shelve him and look for another Messiah.  One week was long enough to figure that out.  “Crucify him” was a logical next step towards finding that next Messiah.

For those who stood with him, even though not sure of the final outcome, the Messiah began to infiltrate their whole being — some immediately, others little by little. 

Their lives began to take on a mirror image of the Messiah.  Their lives began to reflect Messiah to their communities.  They became little Messiah’s wherever they walked and talked. 

Everyone is looking for a Messiah.

The moral of the story – Example

Let’s take a written example of story and moral (using the New International Version of the Bible):

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.   (I Corinthians 11)

Put this meal on YouTube (without the sound) and ask people what it is about.  Some might just think this is a chance to eat.  Others might interpret this to be some kind of ritual, and might even come up with some possible interpretations of the ritual.  Others might just like the lighting and cinematography — figuring just being there would be fun.

Until someone steps up.  Stands in front and explains.  The story is more than the lighting and the food and the ritual.  This is about . . . the moral of the story is . . .

Jesus gives himself — the bread given.  Jesus gives his life — the blood given.  A new covenant is formed and affirmed.

There are many meals we eat.  In eating this meal we need to set the story.  Explain the circumstances and then eat.  And if you decide that all you want is the food and the lights and the ritual, you are eating wrongly.  You are contradicting the story.  You are dismissing the moral of the story.  You are passing from believer to apostate.

The moral of the story?  Watch out for story!

The moral of the story – Now

From ancient times, to reformation times, to now!

A story captures us.  Academy awards are handed out to those who capture us best.  Story tellers become motivational speakers.  The person with an unusual story holds our attention around a camp fire.

In our times of quiet and meditation we relive the story.  The story begins to fashion us.

A nation can be broken or healed in a story.  An institution can be broken or healed in a story.  A person can be broken or healed in a story.

Jesus knew it!  God knows it!  So He shows it!

While we may have a moral blackboard of ten commandments and a sermon on the mount, each are accompanied by flesh and blood approaches.  Give away your coat to those in need.  Don’t have sex with others of the same sex or with animals.  Fathers give good gifts to benefit children and not to harm them.

There is a playfulness here that we sometimes miss.  Both the story and the moral of the story make up the game.  When we cannot attach a story to a moral statement (and all stories are moral), we have not done the work of life.  When we cannot attach a moral statement to a story (and morality is lived in flesh and blood), we have not done the work of life.

The moral of the story – Reformation

In the 1500’s a movement began to reform the moral of the story.

For years, in western theology, the picture had taken over from the moral.  Or rather the picture had been twisted to perform the will of the one who was retelling the story.

Martin Luther listened to the story tellers, then looked back at the original story written by the original author.  They didn’t match.  He started telling the story the original way. 

Not a healthy plan. 

Martin got to tell his story to an influential audience.  Actually, he was summoned to a trial!  The other side also told the story their way.  The authorities of influence got to decide who was right. 

Martin’s story was on the losing side.  Martin’s head was on the chopping block.  His life could literally be terminated. 

One of those stories Martin was in trouble for telling was the story of “communion”.  A meal that he felt was open to everyone who believed.  The other side restricted the meal — or how much of the meal you could eat.  Only certain of the hierarchy could actually partake of both the bread and the wine — everyone else was considered less than these priests.  Martin believed in the priesthood of all believers. 

Terminate the traitor!  The possibility of death for holding to his version was very real.  But the story of communion being for everyone found another audience who snatched him from death — literally kidnapping him from his possible executioners.

The moral of the story

A serpent is engraved in metal on a rod.  If you looked you would be saved from death from local snake bites (Numbers 21:8-9).  It worked!!  Milllenia later that same picture was still in the memory of the Israelite nation.  Jesus is spoken of as a simile of the bronze snake in John 3:14 – look to Him and you will be saved (implied in this passage is the idea that you would be saved from the death bites of this world). 

But that bronze snake had become a problem centuries before Jesus came.   “He (King Hezekiah) broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.” (I Kings18:4) 

A good picture gone bad!

I remember hearing stories when I was young.  Often they were just for fun.  But sometimes the story included the line – “the moral of the story is . . .”   After the story had engaged us, the idea was that the plot would cement our thinking, which in turn would determine our actions.

That great English best-seller of all time, the Holy Bible (in it’s many versions), does just that.  And for Christians, two of those great pictures become attached through the millenia to our practice of life. 

Baptism. 

Communion.

But, just like the past, we can create a good picture gone bad.  That’s where we need the teachers, and the political will to confront the moral of the story in the presence of the believers of the story.