By: Pastor Paul Kneeland
How can a 93 yr. old oak, who lived in only four houses his entire life, produce a 57 yr. old acorn who is currently on house #24? Similarly, how does one begin to share an “alumni story” of a farm boy with a slightly twisted mind and a half-crazy spirit of adventure whose life has been playing out like “The Princess Bride” with eel-infested waters, cliffs of insanity, fire swamps, sinking sand, and rodents of unusual size? Inconceivable!
Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
When I attended the Free Lutheran Bible College (AFLBS back in the day), many students referred to it as the Association Free Lutheran “Bridal School.” So, after graduating, and since I really didn’t know where I was going, I found myself someplace else… pursuing my “princess bride” at “AFLBS West” (Moorhead State University.)
Once married, Ruth (formerly Quanbeck) and I began what has become an adventure story that has been highlighted with a large bouquet of new friends from all around the world. But the biggest highlight has been the gaining of understanding… understanding where we ARE going… and understanding where we WILL end up.
The famous chorus by Jim Reeves says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Understanding that our individual stories are a part of a much greater narrative has been transformational for my family on this journey in this world. And that greater story is what fuels why “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
Over the past 35 years, the adventure has included many pastoral roles, coaching positions, business endeavors, even a stint in the professional golf world. Years ago, in one of those jobs as a realtor, I would get asked by other realtors what I specialized in. I would tell them, “Post-retirement dream homes.” The term “post-retirement” is what threw them. What’s after retirement? Death? Indeed. And there’s more after death. There’s a greater story in play here.
The beginning of the story is amazing! The book of Genesis reveals much of it, and it is glorious beyond our imaginations. God created a perfect kingdom where He could walk daily with those who were created in His own image. It was very good!
But then there was rebellion in the kingdom. Sin had entered God’s perfect world. It is described like this by Eugene Peterson, “A catastrophe has occurred. We are no longer in continuity with our good beginning. We have been separated from it by a disaster. We are also, of course, separated from our good end. We are, in other words, in the middle of a mess.” Romans 3:23 says it this way, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Yes, that leads to eel-infested waters, cliffs of insanity, fire swamps, sinking sand, and rodents of unusual size. And yet this is not a movie. It is real life. Real sin. Real consequences. A kingdom with lost citizens everywhere in need of rescue.
But the story does not end there. It is just beginning. Because as you read through Scripture you see the King initiate and accomplish a redemption of epic proportions. The King Himself comes to His created world to suffer and die and rise again to provide the forgiveness needed in order for us rebels to be restored in a right relationship with our Heavenly Father.
And the adventure story continues as each of us who have trusted in Christ for our redemption and salvation have been commissioned to join in this rescue mission. There is a kingdom banquet to come, and there are many more whom God desires to taste of that banquet.
In recent years, I have found my current role within that mission as a Missionary/Representative for the International Orality Institute (I.O.I.) We take God’s Word to people around the world who learn to memorize this grand narrative I speak of, and in turn share it with their friends and neighbors.
I echo God’s invitation for you to join in the rescue mission. It will look different for each of us, but it is what we are all called to be a part of. And if you would like to specifically join in the legendary adventures of I.O.I., each year we raise funds through an intense, ambitious hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and out again in one day. Inconceivable? Not at all. Come and join the adventure! [If you have interest in supporting the work of the International Orality Institute, please contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org, or donate directly through their website, [https://oralityinstitute.org/partnering/giving/.]
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