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The Seven Stories: Part Two
The Seven Stories: Part Two

The Good News Story

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Daily Meditations continue to explore the “seven stories” inspired by Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins’s e-book The Seventh Story. Father Richard describes how the gospel offers us a new story:

If we’re honest, culture forms us much more than the gospel. It seems we have kept the basic storyline of human history in place rather than allow the gospel to reframe and redirect the story. Except for those who have experienced grace at their core, Christianity has not created a new story, “a new mind” (Romans 12:2), or a “new self” (Ephesians 4:24). The old and tired win/lose scenarios seem to be in our cultural hard drive. The experience of grace at the core of reality is much more imaginative and installs new win/win programs in our psyche, but has been neglected and unrecognized by most of Christianity.

Up to now, Christianity has largely imitated cultural stories instead of transforming them. Reward/punishment and good people versus bad people have been the plot lines of most novels, plays, operas, movies, and conflicts. It’s the only way a dualistic mind, unrenewed by prayer and grace, can perceive reality. It is almost impossible to switch this mind with a short sermon during a Sunday church service.

As long as we remain within a dualistic, win/lose script, Christianity will continue to appeal to self-interested moralisms and myths. It will never rise to the mystical banquet that Jesus offers us. The spiritual path and life itself will be mere duty instead of delight, “jars of purification” instead of 150 gallons of intoxicating wine at the end of the party (John 2:6–10). We will focus on maintaining order by sanctified stories of violence instead of moving toward a higher order of love and healing, which is the heart of the gospel. [1]

The great traditions give name, shape, and ultimate direction to what our heart inherently knows from other sources. This is not new or unorthodox but exactly what Paul taught: “Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and divinity—however invisible—have been there for the mind to see in the things of creation” (Romans 1:20). Similarly, as the Hebrew Scriptures say, “It is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. It is not in the heavens, so that you need to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down to us?’ Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to ask, ‘Who will cross the seas and bring it back to us?’ No, the word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:11–14). We must honor the infinite mystery of our own life’s journey to recognize God in it. Or is it the other way around? It seems that God is not going to let us get close unless we bring all of ourselves—in love—including our brokenness. That’s why the Good News really is good news. Nothing is wasted. [2]

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, rev. ed. (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 2022), 172.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993), 94–95.

Image credit: Joel and Jasmin Førestbird, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

Stories are layered like the rings of a tree.

Story from Our Community:  

Often, I find myself struggling to get out of my own head. I know that most of the time I’m living from “My Story” instead of in alignment with God. Just last night, I found myself on a date with a guy, trying to impress him. At one point, I even found myself lying. Thinking about it afterwards, I realize I was creating drama to feel significant. I wanted to give our conversation greater meaning. If I can keep the mindset of Christ and the knowledge of our larger stories, I think I would be a better companion to others and myself. —Warren P.

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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.