Earlier this year Rob Wiseman said something to me that really stuck. I was in the middle of making sense of a sudden change of life for the better. I’d gone from some incredibly hard years into a space where it felt like things were getting constantly better for me and the family. As weird as it may sound to you reading this, it was actually hard for me to lean into the idea that things were changing for good and that it wasn’t just some small interval before the next disaster.
Well, in the middle of my verbal processing with Rob he stopped me and said something really profound, “sounds like it’s time for you to change the narrative you’re telling about your life.”
He was dead right.
It’s not always easy to change the way you’re telling our own story because more often than not there are no clear page turns or new chapter titles - we transition through seasons slowly. That’s what makes prophecy so beautiful.
When God speaks prophetically into our lives he gives us a new story to hook into, one that can change the way we speak about our circumstances and the small decisions we make in our immediate hours, days and weeks.
Prophecy opens up a new space in our imagination so we can tell another story. The story of who God is helping us become.
Well, five weeks ago we felt God say the same thing to us as a community as Rob had said to me. We were drawn back to relook at our story in Psalm 107, to see where God leads these exiles once they’ve been gathered from the four corners of the earth. As we reflected we felt the Spirit calling us to rediscover our lives in this new city we find ourselves in. To retell our narrative as the gathered people and not no longer the still-gathering.
As we prayed it through he showed us that once this generation were drawn together where “he let’s the hungry dwell, and establish a city to dwell in” (107:36) they were then called to “sow fields, plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. [that] By his blessing they will multiply greatly” (107:38).
In other words, they changed the story they were telling about their journey.
It may sound like semantics, and it’s not like we haven’t been putting our roots down these years anyway, but when wanderers begin to take responsibility for the land they’re settling in they take ownership of the space of hospitality.
They pivot from the mentality of those in need to those reaching out to others who need.
What that doesn’t mean for us, is our creating new programs and changing the way we are in order to become more “evangelistic” in whatever sense you may hear that word. But what it does mean is that we need to be willing to change our own narrative from being a people who are gathering from the four corners of spiritual doubt, cynicism, pride or woundedness to a people setting a table for a world that feels all those things without the hope of Jesus.
That will be easier for some of us reading this than others.
It means us re-looking at our practices and how we live them out with even more intention and love. It means taking on responsibility for our part in the table setting of divine love.
If we start building our community without stepping out of our exile identity as a generation, we’ll probably never even think to imagine we’re ready to begin playing our part in that table setting.
It’s not impossible to get addicted to healing up and to being given space to rest and time to get your bearings. But we can’t live there. Not if we want to keep healthy.
What’s meant to be a stage in our coming back to communion with God can quickly become a lifestyle. But if we primarily identify with our hurts, doubts, and aches, we begin a process of blinding ourselves to the needs of others.
That’s why the ending of Psalm 107 is so important to us, and why we based an entire series “Faithful Presence” on it. Because ultimately, this North, South, East and West gathering of ours was for a purpose - it was to become wounded-healers, the hospitalised becoming the hospitable, the hungry now becoming the table setters for the great banquet of love that is the kingdom of heaven.
How do we go about this as a community? You’ll have to wait until the next blog post for that. What’s important today is that we consider the shift. That we look deep within ourselves as individuals and as a community and to ask ourselves if we’re willing to open up, to accept that we are no longer a generation of cityless people, but that we’ve found a home, and it’s time to open it up to the world with new eyes.
That’s not assuming you’re not already doing that by the way - our living this way is one of my great prides in our community. But as I learn’t in my conversation with Rob, it’s not only about what we’re doing or not doing, it’s about starting with a story change and allowing the prophetic Spirit to move in us through that as we tell a new story together.
So, are you ready to respond to the Spirit with us and help us change the story of Central Vineyard?
[As part of our preparation for Pentecost I’ve created some questions and prompts to pray through individually and in whatever circles you’re gathering in these next few weeks. Each blog post will end with an opportunity to allow the Spirit to prompt you in your own journey and your place in the whole as we work toward our Pentecost evening on June 9.]
Sometimes it takes us a while to catch up with what God is doing and to find language for it. Every now and then we have to choose to change the story we’re telling about our lives before we’re even ready to accept it - a prophetic decision to lean into the future God is designing whether we feel ready or not. We feel the Spirit telling us that we’re in this moment as a community. That he has gathered us from the four corners of our generation and that it’s time to respond to him in discovering how identifying as welcomers, and not exiles, in God’s tomorrow looks like.
What are some moments or seasons in your life you’ve felt God calling you to “change the story you’re telling about your life”?
How have you responded to this invitation over time? Or have you not?
What do you think it looks like for us as a community to respond to this invitation?
What part do you play - large or small - in helping us lean into this prophetic moment?
What do you feel the Spirit might say to us to encourage us at this turning point?
God of ever-flowing newness, make us your newness people too.
You have gathered us and healed us,
At times in part, and at times in full,
At times in minutes, and at times with patient longevity.
Make us wounded-healers just like you,
Gatherers of thirsty, hurting and disoriented souls,
Table setters in the wilder-places,
Courageous ushers of your kingdom.
You’re changing our story, you’re writing new history,
Teach us how to build with you,
As you prophesy to the uncertainty within us.