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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                               Sermon # 1234

November 1, 2015                                                                              Luke 4:16-21

Dr. Ed Pettus                                                                                2 Kings 22:1-13, 23:1-3                                                                                   

“The Danger of a Lost Story”


  1. Our Stories Shape Us
    1. Klingons (Star Trek reference!)


“These are our stories. They tell us who we are.”  This is a line from a Star Trek episode from Lt. Worf, a Klingon, an alien.  In the Klingon world, Klingons are defined by their stories and rituals and traditions.  Stories of Kahless, the great warrior, and stories that formed an identity for Klingons.  They are considered a warrior race, honorable, and strong. In this particular episode, Worf finds a group of Klingons who were displaced by war as children and they grew up without the knowledge of the stories that defined them as Klingons.  As he tells one of the stories, one of the young Klingons object that the story is made up, but Worf says, “These are our stories. They tell us who we are.”  At one point in the episode a young Klingon says, “We have forgotten ourselves.  Our stories are not told.  Our songs are not sung.”  ["Star Trek: The Next Generation: Birthright: Part 2 (#6.17)" (1993)]


We say the same thing about the Bible.  “These are our stories. They tell us who we are.”  We will get back to this point before we leave this morning!


               b. Family & Community


Another major story that shapes our lives are those of family and community.  When I tell people I grew up in the other Charleston (SC), it defines something about me.  It defines a place and culture and the influences that gave me a particular point of view about the south and the state and the country. 

My family history shapes my life.  My ethnic background, my crazy uncle, my great great grandfather, my immediate family and the good and the bad that comes with all of that.  The story of family tells us something of who we are physically, mentally, spiritually, and in ways we seldom consider. 

When we look at the destruction of the family unit as we have known it, it threatens our story of ourselves.  We have seen the rapid decline of two parents, male and female, 2.5 children and so forth.  Many also warn of the destruction of society because of the destruction of the family unit.  Destruction of the family means the destruction of family history and family story, destruction of meaning and place and awareness of who we are.  The same could be said of any community or nation if we do not remember and learn from and honor the past that has shaped us. 

Mario Llosa sees our culture as completely captivated by the now, by “the pleasures of the present moment”.*  We are a society steeped in the present with no concern for the past and even rewriting the past to serve the present moment without any regard for the future.  We are perhaps the greatest society to be threatened by our own ability to repeat the mistakes of the past.  We produce very little with an eye toward enduring truth and making life better for future generations.  We live off the future set for us by other people who did look out for the future.  We instead live only for the present one hit wonder or the next over hyped movie or sporting event.  We cannot or will not see anything more than the now.  We need our stories, stories of family and community.


              c. Biblical


The greatest shaper of identity and awareness are the stories of the Bible.  From creation to salvation to new heaven and earth, we are shaped by the word of God.  The Bible tells us who we are and whose we are. 


         2. The Danger of a Lost Story

  1. Physical Loss

Certainly in biblical times the story could be physically lost as the story of 2 Kings reveals and the book is found in the temple.  The story was kept alive through the oral tradition of telling and retelling the story from generation to generation.  Physical loss is our least likely reason for losing our story.  There are millions of copies of the Bible and even if we lose one we can check into a hotel and get one there! 


        b. Amnesia

Deuteronomy 8:11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today.”  Lest we forget.  Some many have forgotten the story, so many more don’t even know the story.  Bible treated as a tourist attraction, ancient but irrelevant to the modern world, like no longer honoring those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms in USA.  We cheaper their sacrifice and their life and disrespect those who serve today and cheapen freedom itself.  If freedom is no longer valued, then no one will stand up to defend it and we will keep electing people who care more about power and control than a free nation. 



           c.  Distortion

Interpretation, better said, reinterpretation, people will distort that meaning of scripture to fit their perceived notions of reality and like and dislikes.


           d. Revision

Rewriting, very close to reinterpreting, but the consequence of distorting the Bible and its clear teachings is casting a false vision of what it proposes and thinks.  Itching ears – 2 Tim 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.


We will only lose the story if we fail to tell it, fail to practice it, fail to defend it, fail to believe it, fail to trust it, fail to remember it, fail to teach it, fail to grasp it. 





        3. Reclaiming Our Story

  1. Must be Believed

It is not enough just to tell it and keep it alive that way, but we must also believe it.  Belief means trusting it for what it is and for the authority it bears in our lives. 


         b. Must be Practiced

Do what it says!  Our story becomes more believable by those who do not currently believe it, if we actually live it out. 


           c. Living Story – Living God

Hebrews 4:12 “ For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”   Because the Bible is a living word, it feeds our creeds, hymns, theologies, and tradition.  It serves to guide us and transform our lives if we are obedient. 




      4.  Telling Our Story

  1. Our Story Tells of Lost Stories
    1. New King Exodus 1:8-10  Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 


Here is an early lost story.  A new king comes into power and he knows nothing of the story of Joseph.  He knows nothing of the provision that Joseph gave to his people, Israel.  The story is lost and the new story that begins is placing Joseph’s people in slavery.  It is kind of like the current administration of the USA who believed that we needed to forget the old story of America and write a new one. 


                ii.  Forgot How to Blush Jeremiah 6:13-15  13 “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.  14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.  15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord. 


Another example:  When Israel forgets its story they forget what it means to live by that story and in Jeremiah the poet tells us that they forgot how to blush.  With no rules to follow and no morality to share together, there is no reason to blush, no reason to be embarrassed by falsehood or wickedness. 


iii.  No Book 2 Kings 22:1-13, 23:1-3


The story had been lost for so long, Israel began worshiping other gods.  When the book was found, probably the book of Deuteronomy, the story was rekindled and Israel began to live again in righteousness.  Without the story everyone became disobedient. 


iv. Think You Know – Jesus to the Pharisees


John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” 


The Pharisees actually knew the story but they got so caught up in keeping all the rules that they forgot to keep the law and certainly failed to see the One the scriptures promised would come, Jesus. 


        b. Righting the Wrongs

i. Symptoms of a False Narrative

We know the symptoms of forgetting the story.  A false narrative comes in to take up the void.  The narratives of materialistic consumerism and sexuality without boundaries and forgetting how to blush. 


ii. Redefinition of Marriage

We see these false stories manifest in the redefinition of marriage.  Our culture has forgotten our story and replaced it with a false narrative. 


iii. No Knowledge of Created in God’s Image

  1. Killing the unborn
  2. Denial of Human Nature (Sin and Sexuality)

If we put abortion and the various issues of sexuality on the table, much if not all of the problems stem from our forgetting that we are created in the image of God.  When we forget that story, we live without any respect for life in every area of life. 




             c. Stories That Transform

i. Living God – Living Word


This is the God who was and is and is to come.  God has created for us a past, present, and future.  God himself is eternal, yet the author of our beginning and end, the author of our past, present, and future.  He has revealed himself in His stories, in the word of God.  And in those stories he has revealed the nature of humanity who so desperately needs God’s story of salvation. 


These old stories had and have great power to transform.  They shaped a nation in Israel.  They reshaped a people in the Church and Gentiles.  As they have been told throughout history they have had power to transform families and communities and nations.  So too in our day, they have the power to transform our lives and our church, power to topple leaders and nations and systems.  These stories give life.  The stories of the world are lifeless and even lead to death.


May it never be said of God’s people that we failed to tell the stories.  Such was the problem for the Klingons, “We have forgotten ourselves.  Our stories are not told.  Our songs are not sung.”  When we forget ourselves because we have forgotten our story, that is when America will come to an end.  It is up to us, the people who serve the living God, to tell the story, to stand in the power of the Holy Spirit and proclaim, “These are our stories. They tell us who we are.”  When so often hear that Jesus is the answer and this is true in the sense that his story must be told and believed in order that people and nations can come to know the truth that sets us free.  Amen. 




*This sermon was sparked by the article in First Things, Historical Is Not Enough, Carl R. Trueman, 10/23/15.