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The Gospel According to A Tale of Two Cities

Because every screenwriter, author, musician and producer is made in the Image of God you can often find inklings of this Christian message in the stories that they write and the art they create. Charles Dickens is no exception. In Dickens' famous novel, A Tale of Two Cities, a masterful work of literature that has been required reading for decades, we see a clear depiction of the meaning of redemption. 


There are actually multiple fields of discourse used in the Bible to describe the Christian message. Each word sheds light on it from a different angle; rich words like Adoption, Redemption, Justification, Reconciliation are just a few. Think how it feels to be adopted as an orphan, or to be set free after being a slave. Think how it would be to have all your debt forgiven, or to be pardoned after being a convicted felon. All of these images are used to describe the Christian message we call the Gospel.


 In each field of discourse there are two common themes:

1) God was motivated by love when he did these things for us and 2) Jesus took our place and became our substitute in some way.


The word that best describes Dickens contribution in A Tale of Two Cities is Redemption. Redemption is freedom obtained at a price. The Christian idea of redemption is that - In love, God has purchased our freedom by substituting himself.


In Dickens' tale, the substitutionary savior is Sidney Carton and the person he frees is Charles Darnay.


Darnay has been convicted and he awaits the guillotine. But Sidney Carton has compassion on him and so he sneaks into his cell, knocks him unconscious, changes clothes with him, and takes his place setting him free. 


This is a picture of the Christian message of redemption but our innate sense of abundant freedom makes it hard for us to grasp.


Most of us have never been in jail. And we have certainly never languished under a death sentence. Our days exhibit a certain amount of freedom appropriate for people whose national anthem concludes with the phrase “the Land of the free and the home of the brave” If we are anything, we are free.


And yet, the Bible says that there is more to our situation than meets the eye.


Men and women are complicated and mysterious creatures. We exhibit the genius, freedom and dignity appropriate to those who have been made in the image and likeness of God. But we also display the destructive tendencies and enslaving appetites of the most merciless animals.


This second part of us, is what the Bible refers to as our sinful nature. It is that part of us that has gotten us in trouble, and taken away our freedom. No matter how many times we sing the national anthem our sinful nature still holds us captive and in many ways we ourselves are locked up and enslaved by it.

This is why Jesus can say



"I tell you the truth anyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8).



Sin binds us with a death sentence. (Romans 6:23).



This is the prison holding all of us captive. 


But God is like Sidney Carton in that he has compassion on us and takes our place. In order to take our place though, God had to become like one of us. And so Jesus, who is God eternal, took on flesh and became a man. As Nat King Cole sings every Christmas, 

"veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail incarnate deity, . Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel*" 

*Immanuel is the Hebrew word which means "God with us".


Jesus is God with us, God with flesh, who, in compassion, came in to break us free by taking our place. This is why he can say, "I come that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10) and "I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:15).


Dickens' description of what happened in that cell illustrates clearly with what the Bible says about redemption. The whole plan is Sidney's idea from beginning to end just as setting us free is God's idea from beginning to end.    


Dickens describes the scene as Sidney forces the incarcerated Darnay to switch outfits with him. He writes,


"With wonderful quickness, and with a strength both of will and action, that appeared quite supernatural, [Sidney] forced all these changes upon him. The prisoner was like a child in his hand." 


Dickens is highlighting that true freedom is a gift of grace. This is why he describes him as a child. Someone else pays the price. Someone else takes his place. And just like him we have to receive our freedom like little children. Just as Darnay cannot take credit for his new life, neither can we. We can be freed by his grace and not by any religious or moral effort of our own. This is the Christian understanding of redemption.


Our freedom from the prison of death and sin was God's idea from beginning to end, and Jesus is the one who took our place and paid our price. 


The price he paid was his life for ours. On the cross, where Jesus hung and died, he prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And when he rose from the dead three days later he proved to the world that his prayers had been heard. 


Understanding Jesus' freedom-purchasing compassion in these terms means you understand redemption. You and I are not as free as we have been lead to believe. But the gift of freedom is there for all of us to take, if we will let him remove our prison clothes and dress us in his own righteousness.


Jesus’ promise is trustworthy and true. Go and ponder what he means when he says “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). 

Posted by Rich McCaskill with


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To be sent is to be...loved.  

Just before Jesus turns His disciples loose to carry on His mission to make disciples who make disciples of all nations, He says to them these words.

"Peace be with as the you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."  John 20:21

It was out of radical love for humanity and creation that the Son of God was sent, and it is out of responding to the love of God in Jesus Christ--through faith--that we are sent into this world to saturate it with the Gospel.

On July 13th, 2016 six Middle Schoolers and 4 adults were sent, by faith, to San Francisco.  Faith is a funky thing, isn't it?  

When faith in God is at the core of what we do we don't know how things are going to turn out or exactly what it is that God is going to do along the way...that is what is so exciting about following Jesus into all of life!


Think about it... When faith in God is expressed in action we get to trust Him to enable us (individually or in family) to somehow and someway embody the Gospel through demonstration and proclamation; it doesn't matter where or what it is, whether: jumping into a 12-passenger van fully of teenagers, going through the doors of our schools, entering into a foreign or familiar city, walking through the doors to our job or even our very home.  

We have the opportunity in the everyday unique and normal experiences of life to encounter God do the impossible.

What does it look like for you to intentionally trust God?

This very vulnerable place can cause us to run in the opposite direction, or can cause us to cling to our magnificent God to do what we absolutely cannot do without Him.  Let me tell you, it was soooo cool to watch and join in with our students and adult leaders step out in faith in God in very spiritually dark and unknown places to most of us!    

While in San Francisco we were able to partner with 3 remarkable ministries: City Team, Center for Student Missions, and Soma San Ramon Valley.  It was with these ministries that we had the privilege to practically love and serve many women, men, teens and children who were homeless, outcasts, broken and rejected, through providing meals, listening, laughing, praying and sharing our lives and the Gospel with them.

Our team stepped out in faith and experienced God do what seemed to be impossible, through our lives, over and over again.  Here are some of the ways our team describes their experience:

"I learned not to judge people on how they look, rich or poor they can all have needs." - Sam

"I learned that everyone has a different story and sometime they just need someone to listen to them." - Sydney 

"I saw how difficult it is to live without a home and how God can impact lives in amazing ways that I can't explain, and that God really can call others to come and serve even in San Francisco." -Ellie

 "I watched God answer our prayers and give us courage and strength when we didn't have much left." - Alana

It was amazing to not only see the courage and changes in our Soma kids but also the Spirit changes in my own heart as we served in San Francisco. -Sam 

God opened our eyes to extreme needs, brokenness, and the power of the Gospel breaking into hopeless situations and bringing life and transformation.  We learned simple and creative pathways to love complete strangers and each other well, and are returning with a fresh perspective of the joy of being sent into our world as family, servants, and missionaries!

"I saw God do amazing things. We gave the poor and homeless people we met the dignity and respect of listening to their story and treating them like human beings made in God's image. It was something they very rarely experience." -Rich

Bethany shared this, "...Some people thing that like different countries need the most attention, but there is so much need all around us that we need to take not of.  It doesn't take very much to make a homeless/needy persons day and I think we should would towards helping the people around us." 

"...because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." I Thessalonians 2:8

Our trip provided a great opportunity to build new friendships, and experience God in amazing ways as we responded in faith and stepped out of our comfort zones to love and care for many people who are rejected by most of society.  

To be sent is to be...loved.  
Thank you for loving us well!

With Joy!
Stephan, Alana, Sam, Rich, Sydney, Olivia, Kellen, Ellie, Bethany & Samuel