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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Finishing the Narrative

"N. T. Wright provides a helpful illustration of how the Bible invites us into its narrative. He imagines that the script of a 'lost' Shakespeare play is somehow discovered. Although the play originally had six acts, only a little more than five [acts] have been found: the first four acts, the first scene of act five and the final act of the play. The rest is missing. The play is given to Shakespearian actors who are asked to work out the rest of act five for themselves. They immerse themselves in the culture and language of Shakespeare and in the partial script that has been recovered. They then improvise the unscripted parts of the fifth act, allowing their performance to be shaped by the trajectory, the thrust, of Shakespeare's story as they have come to understand it. In this way they bring the play toward the conclusion that its author has provided in the script's final act." (Michael Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today, 69-70).

Reading Scripture as a nearly complete whole, with our lives “filling the gap”, so to speak, left at the end of Acts, gives Scripture a sense of immediacy. Even the oldest pages of the biblical narrative inform how we are to live as part of God’s redemptive narrative. When Christians see their lives and the world of Scripture as distinct entities, the temptation to ignore what we find irrelevant, uninteresting, or too difficult to understand becomes great. Understanding Scripture requires hard work, and if there are segments of it that have no direct impact on our lives, it seems best to skip those passages and focus on “what is important”. However, if our lives are inextricably connected to the Scriptures, than every passage, even those that seem irrelevant, uninteresting, and difficult, have immense significance for our lives and a careful study of them will yield immeasurable reward.

Since our lives are finishing the story of Scripture, particularly the chapter begun in the book of Acts, mission requires both preparation and flexibility. We cannot improvise the story well if we do not know what has occurred before or the way God intended to conclude His narrative. Those on mission are those who study the Scriptures well. However, there is always an element of surprise in improvisation. We do not know how others will respond to us, or what twists they might add to the story. It is improvisation, not a script, after all. To respond to others well in mission, we need to be able to both easily draw on the entirety of Scripture and be able to be flexible with the people we encounter.

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