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In Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny, Mark Buchanan creatively uses the art of storytelling to illustrate the theology of Jürgen
Moltmann. Pastor Buchanan beckons us to engage with the stories and be drawn into a future beyond what we could imagine or
create. We are invited to walk with an orphan, a disheartened young adult, a sorrowful community, a frustrated parent, and others, to
encounter our own emptiness and indifference and eventually discover that “in the end, a beginning lies hidden.” God's boundless
resolve to comfort the suffering, gather the lost, bring hope to the despairing, and share life that rises out of death is artfully expressed.
Mark Buchanan captures common human experiences and compassionately takes us on the journey from hopelessness into hopefulness. He invites us into the embrace of God that sets us free and unites our story with God's story. As a practical application of Jürgen Moltmann's theology, Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny introduces us to a shared life with God that is inclusive, hopeful, and creative.
Please Click the Arrows below to explore the book's chapters.
Mark F. Buchanan is a Presbyterian Pastor specializing in multicultural ministry in the Los Angeles area. He has been anenthusiastic student of Jürgen Moltmann's theology since encountering Dr. Moltmann while a seminarian at Princeton Seminary. He writes using engaging real life stories to illustrate and and bring to life the central tenets of Dr. Moltmann's theology. He currently resides in Pasadena, California, with his wife and children.
An unexpected opportunity early in my life allowed me to glimpse the connection between Jürgen Moltmann's life story and his emerging theology. This connection provided the thesis which has fueled my study of the progression of Moltmann's theology of hope. Over several decades I have discovered that for Moltmann, hope is the story of God's future coming into the world. From this understanding two conclusions have emerged. God is the unseen storyteller "whispering" hope into people's lives, and every person is a hopeful story waiting to be told.
Underwater and desperate to prevent himself from sinking any further into a lake's murky waters, a young boy grasped onto a wooden pier. Holding his breath the boy trusted himself to the hope that his father would soon embrace him, raise him to the surface and save his life. The story of the boy's trust illustrates the future orientation of Moltmann's understanding of hope and of the salvation of that hope promises. The story portrays God's willingness to "dive in" to the darkness of death to save those entrapped by its destructive power.
The tranquillity of Bottlenose Dolphins majestically rising up and encircling a father and son as they snorkeled off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands bore witness to their unity with the oneness of life. This story introduces readers to the method Moltmann uses to discern the life of God welling up in believers as peace and drawing them into God's peaceful life. It demonstrates Moltmann's recognition of the opportunity every person has to discern God's activity within them and their experience within the life of God. This story introduces readers to one of Moltmann's greatest theological contributions, the discipline of "letting it come to us".
Aware of the fear of abandonment every orphan carries, a father prayerfully steps into a square in Salvador, Brazil to meet his adopted eight month old son for the first time. This story illustrates how God as the adopting parent, comes alongside his fearful child in the forsakenness of the Son and in the life of the Spirit to encourage and empower them in their new life as children of God. This story provides a window into the role that the care of both God and of other adopted siblings (brothers and sisters in the family of God) play in strengthening the believers' new identity and in demonstrating to them the gift of being alive to God's love and justice. The story illustrates Moltmann's recognition that through the cross of Christ, the Son's destiny of life is exchanged for the believer's destiny of death, providing believers access to life eternal through the Son.
Ashamed at losing his way in the world, a young man faces the inability to control his own anger and is overwhelmed by depression. In his despair he discovers the embrace of the Son's death compassionately taking custody over his "sin full life" and providing him a place in the future fulfilment of the Son's love. This story illustrates Moltmann's insight into the power of the Son's "eternal death" to bear in himself both the forsakenness and the sin-fullness of every person. This story is an illustration of the power of the Son's surrender into the finality of death which Moltmann maintains enables him to bear in himself not just the personal sins of people but every act of violence and injustice and even death itself.
Out on a summer road trip to Southern Utah with their sons, two fathers frustrated over their sons' inability to resolve a conflict, un-expectantly find themselves set free by a brief interaction with a stranger. This story illustrates the power of the "livingness of God" to indwell believers with the vitality of God's own life which Moltmann recognizes as the very power that breaks the grip of sin and enlivens life degraded by death's destructive powers. The story compares the gift of God's "livingness" to an un-expected thunder shower which releases into the desert of human interaction what is needed to bring forth the blossoming of God's love in his children.
Carefully rehearsing a long litany of lies which she planned to deliver before the judge, a thirty seven year old business woman, wife, mother and drug addict sat along on the floor of her jail cell. Without warning a power rose out of the empty drain in front of her which silenced her voice and altered her future. This story of renewal illustrates Moltmann's recognition that just as the natural world was created "ex-nihilo", so out of nothing the three persons of God create a new future for all things. The story illustrates that through the triune God's self-giving, space for those willing to be made new has been fashioned, and the empty handed are welcomed into God's future.
Gathered to lay the bullet torn body of a well loved high school student to rest, members of the community struggled to find the strength to stand up to a cascade of violence that has swept across their neighborhood. No words of inspiration uttered at the funeral could cast off the oppressive power that held the community in fear until simple words spoken out of an empathetic heart broke the grip of despair and sparked life in the presence of death. This story illustrates these three central tenets of Moltmann's theology: God's love is life giving, God's empathetic concern pervades every form of suffering, and as a force field of love God draws the will into the dawning of the new creation.
Exhausted from depending upon their own strength to traverse the swiftly flowing currents of the river, hikers haplessly gazed upstream only to catch a glimpse of the Master River Walker coming around the bend. High stepping his way to his final destination, the hikers recognized a new way of walking which does not depend upon human strength not is reliant upon human wisdom. This story illustrates Moltmann's insight into "the way of Jesus Christ" and the vision the Master provides for those willing to walk by faith and not by sight. This story illustrates Moltmann's recognition that welling up in every believer is the power to walk in the way of Jesus Christ and to be drawn into his redemptive journey into the future.
Surprised by the sudden laughter that broke the silence of our prayers of thanksgiving, I struggle to make sense out of Edith's astonishment that "a white man would be kneeling in front of her, praying for her healing". Troubled by the insertion of race into our shared consciousness of the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, I was forced to reassess both the privilege of such cross cultural sharing and my own misgivings about the questions it raised. Pondering the wondrous way we had been drawn together, a new opportunity for my own healing presented itself. This story illustrates what Moltmann recognizes as the creation of "a new sociality" which introduces within the community of faith the "diversity in the unity" they share with one another.
Preparing to receive the full and final embrace of God's life-giving love, Mom entered hospice care and drew her children around her. Privileged to come alongside Mom as she struggled to leave behind her affiliations and to adopt her new eternal identity, my brother and I were provisionally made a part of Mom's movement into the mutuality of life with God. Moltmann recognizes that in the future God will draw the willing into himself and become their eternal dwelling place and he will enter them and they will become his eternal dwelling place. While the fulfillment of this mutual indwelling remains in the future, it begins in the present. This story illustrates what Moltmann finds paradoxical, life in this world can be "as at once" life in the age to come.
Without knowing it, two people of different age, cultural background and life experience shared the ever present despair of feeling entrapped in a world intent upon closing doors and restricting what is possible. To their surprise as hope rose up in each of them, their separate stories were set free from the past and opened to a future filled with possibilities. Yet in sharing with each other a new vision of the future, an even greater surprise played itself out. Through each other's faith and love the first fruits of hope were tasted and their lives were intertwined by traces of a future fulfillment that pointed ahead to a common destiny.