Late on Monday evening the world stopped for dozens of young concertgoers in Manchester and their families and friends as a suicide bomber blew himself up among the revelers. It was a sudden and shocking reminder that there is something very wrong with our world, a perennial dark streak that refuses to go away. When we are capable of so much good how can we explain what happened on Monday night?

Over the years philosophers have come to radically different views about what lies at the heart of humanity and the cultures we create. Thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and Machiavelli painted a bleak portrait of people pitted against each other in endless rivalry and conflict, while German thinkers like Kant and Hegel envisioned the steady evolution of humankind towards a sort of heaven on earth.

In between these polar extremes of fatalism and fantasy, the Gospel presents a sort of Realistic Idealism. It faces square on the honest reality of who we are, but it also offers a journey of unimaginable hope. The key to unlocking the power of the Gospel in our lives is to understand the story we’re in, and to let it shape our whole reality. It involves knowing who we are, where we’ve come from and where we are going.

A few years ago in the US a couple of psychologists noticed an amazing link between how much kids knew about their families and their emotional health. Even having a basic knowledge of their family history and origins seemed to make a difference — it gave them a firm basis for their emerging identity and increased their resilience. Knowing where their grandparents and parents came from, how they met, some of the difficult experiences their family had made it through gave them a firm foundation on which to stand. The healthiest family story turned out to be the “oscillating family narrative,” which essentially said we’ve been through some challenges as a family but we always get through it and stick together.

It’s a great reminder as a church of the power of our ‘family’ story to shape our identity and to give us confidence for the journey ahead. One of our defining stories is that we are Pentecost People, meaning that we share in the legacy of that day when God breathed new life into a rag-tag group of followers and gave them a world-changing purpose.

One of the most distinctive features of that first Pentecost community is that they became a close-knit ‘family,’ united by their experience and love of God. It’s why we believe it’s so important for all of us to find places of deeper relationship at St Paul’s where we get to share our stories of God’s faithfulness with each other and go on the journey together. So if you want to host or lead a group, or find an existing one, talk to Lex & Barb or email them at barbara@stpauls.org.nz.

Blessings,
Jonny