Last Sunday, we started a new series at Collective Church. The series is called "Everything in its Right Place," and it centers around the concept of shalom found in the first two chapters of the book of Genesis.
I will never forget the first time I was introduced to this idea. It was January of 2006, and I was at a pastors' conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I sat through a breakout session led by a guy named Matt Krick, and he talked about something called Narrative Theology.
The basic proposal of Narrative Theology is that we are part of a story--a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
This story begins in Genesis 1, in which everything is (as the title of this post and our church's series suggests) in its right place. When God creates in Genesis 1, creation is described as "good," "blessed," and, in the case of humanity, "in God's image." In other words, things are as they were meant to be. This picture of wholeness is also found in Genesis 2. This is the beginning of our story.
The story ends in Revelation 21 & 22, at which point everything is put back together again--things are once again exactly as they were meant to be.
This is how the story begins, and this is how the story ends.
This is our story.
The Hebrew word for this state of being--in which all things are as they were meant to be--is the word shalom. Shalom is often described as "peace," but it's so much more than that.
Cornelius Plantinga says this-
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets called shalom. We call it ‘peace,’ but it means far more than just peace of mind or cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, all under the arch of God’s love. Shalom, in other words, is the way things are supposed to be. (Engaging God's World, 15)
Shalom is wholeness. It is order. It is unbroken connection with all things.
Shalom is the way things were meant to be, and it is how our story begins and ends.
When things break down in Genesis 3--when the wrong fruit is eaten and a different path is chosen--shalom has been disrupted, and everything is no longer what it was meant to be.
However, the story suggests that we are moving back toward shalom.
The story suggests that there are four dimensions of shalom:
Between God and humans.
Between human beings.
Between humans and the rest of creation.
Within the human soul.
I remember learning about this idea and feeling like I was reading the Bible for the very first time. I remember thinking that this changes everything I have ever been taught.
This is not a merely story about having my personal sins forgiven so I can die and be whisked away to some other place. This is about the restoration of all things in this realm (which, of course, includes the forgiveness of sins).
This is about shalom.
This is a conversation about all things and the story we are all indwelling.
This isn't just a four-part sermon series to be wedged between Mother's Day and Father's Day. This is a whole new way of seeing the world.
Resources on Narrative Theology and Shalom:
"How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?" by NT Wright (article)