“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” (Revelation 22:17)
Everyone loves to finish a good story. Whether a movie or a book, there is something satisfying about seeing a story all the way to it’s completion. It’s easy to get consumed in a book series; getting lost in the story in a way that it seems that every moment must be spent reading to discover what happens. Finally, when the story is over, and the last page has been turned, there is a sense of satisfaction and peace with the ending.
But then that moment happens when you start to think, I wonder what will happen next? I wonder what happens to the characters? I wonder what the future holds? We’re glad the story ends, but at the same time we wish the story would continue.
One of the beauties of the Biblical story is that the story never ends; it continues on into the future. Not just in the sense that the new creation will span eternity, and eternity never ends, but in the sense that the action of the story doesn’t reach a conclusion. As the book of Acts ends, Paul is still in Rome preaching. His desire is to go to Spain at some point and continue spreading the gospel, but for now he’s in Rome and the Bible doesn’t say what happens at the end. Paul’s story doesn’t finish, it’s just left with Paul continuing to preach. In fact, for many characters in the New Testament, their stories are left unfinished. John is still writing letters in old age to encourage believers. Timothy and Titus are still preaching, carrying on the message. Lydia and Phoebe are still involved in serving, caring for others, and leading the church. The story does not end at the conclusion of Acts, or even at the end of the New Testament. Instead the story keeps going. It allows each successive generation to pick up the story and to carry it on. The mission of the church, which is to join in the mission of God, is not over. Instead, you and I are asked to pick it up for a while, to carry it forward, and to faithfully deposit it in the hands of the next generation.
You and I are being invited into this story; the great story of God and the world. Church and religion are not just some separate aspects of our lives that we place alongside other areas of life. It’s not church life, home life, career life, and education life. There’s just life. And we are being invited to join God in what God is doing in the world. “The Spirit and the Bride say come.” Yes, there was a time when Peter and Paul, Lydia and Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquilla were the main characters in the story. There was a time when they were tasked with carrying on the message, spreading the good news, and helping the world come to learn who God is and what God is about. But their time is past. They faithfully carried the story, but now the story has been placed in our hands. We are now charged with carrying the story forward. We are charged with joining God in God’s mission to the world. It’s God’s mission, and God will ultimately decide the outcome, but as image bearers we are tasked with faithfully embodying the story in our time and place.
We are called to be witnesses; to pick up the story and carry it forward. Just as the early disciples were to go back to Jerusalem, and eventually everywhere in the known world, we are called to be witnesses first in our own cities, but eventually in the whole world. We are called to share stories of what we have seen and heard. Stories that happened in scripture, but also stories that happened in our own lives, or in the lives of our friends and neighbors. We are called not just to love and serve others, but to love and serve with purpose and intention. And we are called to be people of hope. We are called to be joyful and hopeful in all situations. When the world is falling apart, we still have hope. When destruction and disaster come, we still have joy. Beyond just the words we say, the way we live will make a difference on people around us. That’s what we are offering the world. We are offering a better way to live; a way to live with purpose and meaning.
The story is now ours to share. We have been invited into the great story of God, and we are tasked with faithfully handing the story to the next generation. May we be faithful.