Pastor Tyler Jones began a new sermon series this past Sunday entitled “Enter the Truth Myth.” Mythology is here defined in C.S. Lewis’ terms as the divine entering into and interacting with the natural realm. Understanding Christianity as True Myth is nothing other than the story of the incarnation; Christ, the divine Son of God, came into this world from the legend of heaven at a special time and place.
The first sermon in the series focused on four trees: the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the cross, and the tree of life re-visited in the book of Revelation. The sermon was by no means earth-shattering or revelatory, but what I found to be of interest was my small group’s discussion of the sermon.
Even though Tyler spent literally 30 seconds speaking about the tree of life re-visited in Revelation, it was the element that garnered the most attention in our small group. The motif of the tree and the symbolism it carries solidified itself in all our minds. It’s mere presence in the heavenly city tells the story of fallen humanity’s inability to obtain eternal life and reconciliation without the third tree, the cross. But it also tells a story broader than individual salvation. It embodies a thematic return to Eden; God is in the business of restoration. He has healed this sin ridden world.
The impact this small story had on the minds of its hearers is what intrigues me. I found that I am not alone in viewing the biblical narrative as fascinating. Most of the written word is in the form of narrative, and for good reason. A good story grips us and stays with us. When we allow scripture to do the same, when we teach the biblical narrative as beautifully as it is presented in the text, our audience will carry it with them for years to come. It is not as if our small group was oblivious to the fact that Christ died on the cross for salvation, that there was a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, or even that the tree of life reappears in revelation. But what seems to escape us is the fact that God has crafted history and his work of redemption therein in a way that constantly commemorates his previous work.
I love the biblical narrative because it is subversive; we think we signed up for a story, but we are taught doctrine. Doctrine is the skeleton; God’s work in history as recorded in the biblical narrative is the flesh. At this point I cannot help but be reminded of Vanhoozer’s book The Drama of Doctrine. As the drama of our God’s work in history and the truths it reveals about himself are revealed to us in sacred scripture, we are exhorted to join the drama as God continues to work in history through his sons and daughters.