The movie, Back to the future, is about a 17-year-old, Marty McFly, who experiences time travel in his friend’s invention. Marty’s trip illustrates a paradox. What if he does something that alters the future? In the movie’s storyline, Marty has to find a way to make sure that his future parents get together. Otherwise, Marty never existed in the future.
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and actually change what happened? A sort of “do-over” that erases a choice or an outcome that you regret? Of course, humankind, at this point, can only dream of time travel. Those of us who are hoping to experience time travel are hopeful that not all of the DeLorean cars disappear before a real scientist discovers how to turn it into a plutonium-powered, time machine.
What is missing in our daydreaming about going back in time to change the future is the life-giving opportunity to share our story as it really happened. But what happened in the past is not necessarily what will happen in the future. What happened in the past does influence the future. But there is a vast difference. The future hasn’t happened yet.
As we come to the end of our worship series, Tell your story, our focus turns to the point of our series. We are each called to tell our story so that others can make a more informed decision today, about what their future could become. This makes our story potentially life-giving.
Over the past few weeks, we talked about the power that stories have as a result of how our body is constructed so that we become emotionally invested. We were created to tell and hear each other’s stories. We can’t change the past. But we can definitely influence the future. And we can do this by just telling our story.
One of the stories found in the Gospel of Luke tells about a time when Jesus returned to Nazareth and attended the church where He grew up. Imagine that you are attending a high school reunion or some other event where you will spend time with people who knew you before you were an adult. Many knew about the capers you pulled. A few told your parents when they saw you in places where you didn’t belong. They knew the “former” you.
Now you have an opportunity to be seen and heard by this hometown crowd. Maybe you are planning to run for public office. Perhaps you are starting a new business. You speak to the people who saw you at your worst and at your best in the past. What will they be thinking when you talk about the future? Will your history be a good predictor of the future that you are hoping will unfold for you?
Jesus is given one of the sacred scrolls. It is the scroll that contains the Book of Isaiah. It is a book of prophecy. Isaiah is the name given to at least a couple of prophets who lived a long time ago. Jesus reads the prophecy about a future messiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has chosen me to bring good news…
Jesus is not the first person to read this text. It has been read dozens of times in this very church in Nazareth. This text articulates the hopes of the people for a time when God will anoint a savior of the people. A person who will release the burdens of the people. Surely, this person, this messiah, will chase out the Roman soldiers and restore their country.
Jesus reads the prophecy and hands the scroll back to the person who gave it to Him to read. The crowd’s attention is on Jesus. Good job. You must have done well in school. You are all grown up now, Jesus. We are glad You came back to visit. Jesus read well. The people are pleased.
But Jesus doesn’t thank the crowds and take His seat. Jesus tells the crowd that this prophecy that the people have waited for centuries to come true is here now. Standing right in front of them. It is Jesus. He has come to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty and give sight to the blind. He has the Spirit of the Lord within Him.
Can you imagine the reaction? “Isn’t this Joseph’s boy? How is His mother, Mary, handling this announcement?” The people, His people, try to throw Jesus off a cliff. “How dare you make such a claim.”
I don’t really know how Jesus felt that day. I know that I would feel humiliated. I can’t imagine myself making a claim on the scale that Jesus made, but I can definitely imagine being shut down by people who knew me when the earlier parts of my story were unfolding when I claim that my future is nothing like my past. Can’t you?
Isn’t this one of the reasons that so many of us are unwilling to share our story? Either we think that no one wants to hear our story, or worse, people will listen to our story and reject us. Rejection stings to the core. Rejection returns us to the shame that we felt when we came to realize that we didn’t do the things we should have done or done things that we shouldn’t have done.
While we cannot erase our past we can choose to follow the One who can shape our future into a beautiful work of art that reflects our Creator.
But our stories are too important to be kept silent. Our voices are too essential to be kept silent. Because Jesus claimed His identity, accepted His destiny as God’s Son, and took on the burdens of all people, we are free to claim our identity. Not who others may think we are, however. We can claim the identity that God had in mind for us while we were still in our mother’s womb.
Our past only informs our future. Our history doesn’t create our future. While we cannot erase our past, we can choose to follow the One who can shape our future into a beautiful work of art that reflects our Creator.
On September 8 we will begin our next series that we will also call Back to the future. Our series is based on the movie that was shown in the Asbury Empowerment Arts Center this past Thursday evening. Read the article on What’s coming up in worship to learn more.
Meanwhile, come join us as we accept a future designed by a loving God. Come and share your story and hear the stories of others. We worship each Sunday at 10:30 am. Come learn why it is important to tell your story and how to do so. I lead a short Bible study in the Asbury Café at 9:30 am. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.