Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

JR Woodward on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is the conclusion of the blog series called The Good News, which has taken place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to today, which is Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. My local newspaper is the the Los Angeles Times. Here is my entry on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

Los Angeles is probably best known for its story telling through the arts – especially film. Good films are born of good narratives. I try to see a movie once a week when possible. When I watch a good film I sometimes get so lost in the story that I lose my sense of time… only to emerge after the credits with new eyes, a new awareness and a new sense of energy and hope. Good stories have that effect.

So what is the story of L.A.? Here are the current headlines that are part of L.A.’s script:

Unemployment Reaches Record High
Trafficking in Humans
Hit-and-Run Driver Kills USC Student
Love Thy Neighbor? Not in L.A.
Los Angeles Most Polluted US City
Racism’s Role in LA Gang Case Rekindles Debate

Where is the good news in all of this? There is some good news happening in LA, like the Lakers making it to the finals (lol). But also there’s a lot of bad news. Are we doomed to live out the same headlines year after year? Is this bleak script being reported the whole story, or is their a script that tells a richer story, a story leading to a more promising future?

We are all a part of some narrative. Every one of us resides in some story and the story we live in shapes the script we write day to day.

So what story are you living in?

How does that story shape your relationships and your calling in life? Does that story enable you to experience constructive transformation in your life and in the lives of others? When you imagine the future, do you have a sense of hope or despair?

The good news is that God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, and because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can now live as forgiven and forgiving people and join God in writing a new future for LA and for the world.

Of course the story of God started before Jesus arrived on earth. If the story of God were a five-act play, its like we have been given the first four acts (Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus) and the last chapter of the fifth act (New Creation) in the scriptures. Now as people who live in this real life drama, we are called to know the first four acts and the last chapter of the fifth act so well that we live improvisational lives in the now that are faithful to the God of this story.

If we choose to live in the story of God, we are called to follow Jesus. In that story, we learn to follow the Liberator of those who have been oppressed by the system, the Lover of those who have been rejected by society and the Deliverer of those who have been seduced by consumerism. This story doesn’t end with the annihilation of the earth, but a remade heaven and earth.

So why should we join Jesus in his story? Stanley Hauerwas suggests that “just as scientific theories are partially judged by the fruitfulness of the activities they generate, so narratives can and should be judged by the richness of moral character and activity they generate.”

As we reflect on God’s future (the last chapter of the fifth act) and let it shape our sense of calling, we can join with God in writing a new future for LA and the world — by anticipating God’s future in the present.

In other words, if God’s future is the elimination of hunger and thirst, how are our economic practices at this moment anticipating the reality of abundance and the elimination of hunger and thirst? If God’s future is the elimination of weapons and war, where people live peacefully with each other, how should we treat our enemies at this moment anticipating the reality of peace and justice? If God’s future is a renewed creation with clean air, fresh water and beauty, how do we approach living a sustainable life in the present, anticipating the reality of new creation?

God will bring the world toward the future he has imagined, and you and I have the opportunity to join him in that story. If you choose a different story, you also choose a different ending. You and I choose the story we want to inhabit, and then that story shapes us, for the good or for the bad. So which story are you living in, really?

JR Woodward is co-founder of Kairos Los Angeles, a network of neighborhood churches in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council as well as on the board for the Ecclesia Network and GCM. He founded The Unembraced, a ministry to orphans in the Turkana region of Kenya. He is also the co-founder and director of The Solis Foundation that awards micro-grants to help start small businesses in Kenya. He enjoys coaching and consulting and is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Global Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  He loves to surf, travel, and have a glass of wine with old and new friends. He enjoys watching films as well as engaging in the art of photography.  He currently resides in Hollywood, California.  He has thoroughly enjoyed hosting this series on The Good News.


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