When I go to a football game, I expect to see four quarters. A baseball game? Nine innings. When I took my 12-year-old daughter to see Wicked last year on Broadway, we paid to see two acts, not one. Imagine the frustration, then, when you attend church and rarely hear any mention of the “final chapter” in story of God. Paul Harvey would not be pleased.
It certainly is not true of every church in our city or elsewhere, but too many well-intended churches often promote a truncated view of the scriptures. Most churches faithfully teach that the world is fallen into sin and that only through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are people redeemed from this sin. That, however, is where many stop. Repent of your sin, turn to Jesus, and inherit eternal life when you die. While as a pastor I’d affirm that this is all true, it is not complete.
The Bible tells of a time when there was not sin in the world. Through the creation account in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we learn that God created man and woman in His own image and issued what is often referred to as the “cultural mandate”: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and tame it (Gen. 1:26-28). In other words, “Take what I have given you and make the earth like what you see in the Garden of Eden, a place of peace, order and beauty.” We call this first chapter in the story of God, Creation.
However, the story of God does not end with Creation, but is soon followed by the Fall, where man and woman disobey God and thereby bring sin into the world. This second chapter is well known both inside and outside the church. But the story of God does not end there either. Rather, God institutes a plan of to redeem His people, first through a series of various sacrifices and ultimately through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. This chapter of Redemption is what Christians stand on as the bedrock for their faith, and rightly so. Yet, the story of God is not complete without further study of the life, ministry, and promises of Jesus.
When Jesus walked the earth, His life was marked by acts of restoration and renewal. Blind people saw, lame people walked, hungry people were fed, and unjustly convicted people were set free. Jesus said that He brought with Him the “Kingdom of God.” Even a surface-level glance at the life of Jesus tells us that this Kingdom was one of restoration and renewal. In simple terms: taking broken things and fixing them. Or, in biblical terms, taking creation back to its original and unimpaired condition. This is the last chapter of the story, Restoration.
This final chapter is what fuels the vision for Flourish Phoenix. Jesus tell us to “follow” Him and that means, in part, joining Him in the restoration of all things. Certainly we are not miracle workers, but given that we are made in the image of God, we have the capacity to create and innovate and see restoration happen. Yes, as Christians we do believe that the Fall frustrates this effort, but it doesn’t render our efforts futile. Because we are Redeemed we are called to be restorers to the greatest extent we can and then leave the ultimate Restoration to God.
Whether you are a professing Christian, an agonistic, or strongly opposed to what you’ve seen and experienced of Christianity, what you now see and experience as Flourish Phoenix was birthed largely out of a desire to communicate and celebrate the concluding chapter of the story we are all a part of, whether we acknowledge it or not. To that, at least, Paul Harvey would tip his cap.
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