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    Jan 15, 2017

    Share The Story

    Share The Story

    Speaker: The Rev. Becky Crites

    Keywords: come, love, see, storytellers, transform

    If you believe that a relationship with God has transformed and is transforming your life, in what way will your life become one that makes Jesus known to others? Become storytellers of God. Find ways with and in your life to tell the story.

    When despair grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting for their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    - Wendell Berry

    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. To rest in the grace that sets us free is a great, quiet longing of every human heart. Yet we live in an age where our senses and our minds have little time to rest -- so how can we really know and live the grace that sets us free.

    There is a great divide among us. With great excitement, some are looking forward to the inauguration of the next president of the United States. Others are organizing marches and are fearful. How will the canvas of our common life next be painted? And it is so among us as well, but you wouldn’t know it outright. For we do not speak of politics on polite company or at church. We do not wish to offend. We do not wish to be judged. But in withholding what is in our hearts, what is the community we build? Now some churches proudly display their political leanings. There are vocal liberal Southern Baptist churches and vocal conservative Episcopal churches. But for most, we are a mix. And because we live in a time when we pick up our toys and walk away from others, we strive to keep peace. And so we don’t talk politics. But in such keeping, we also keep each other at arm’s length.

    Being a great mix was the world of the Church of God in Corinth. And that was causing problems. Paul’s opening great hope for this fractured church was that there be no divisions among them; that they be united in the same mind and purpose (we’ll hear that next Sunday). That is a lofty goal, for what church scholars tell us was quite diverse socially and economically. Such diversity was not the social norms of Roman and Greek world. This would have set them apart. We are more at ease and therefore likely to gather together with people that are like us. Perhaps that is how we are wired for survival.

    We paint the early church with this big brush of a people united in love and fueled with the fire of the new thing God had done with Jesus and of our hearing gospel stories of Jesus’ attention on the broken and the outcasts. But the wealthy, the middle class (such as it was) and the very ordinary folks were there too. They may not have been the largest demographic, but the haves were there too. The early church was not primarily of the lower classes, the outcasts, the widows, the orphans, the sick, but also of the very wealthy and “in” crowd. This may be a surprise to some of us because of romantic notions of that early church.

    They also weren’t always united. And they didn’t always seek discernment through prayer. And sometimes they didn’t live into God’s “open table” idea – that there is no division, no separation at the Eucharistic feast. They were a lot like us. And they were different. They thought more communally than we do. They wouldn’t understand our American pride of individual rights. But like us they were very human - full of struggles on how to follow Jesus, and what God is up to in the world. Their understanding of the grace that sets us free may have been different from each other and from ours today, but they gathered weekly in the hope of celebrating and resting in that grace.

    It is to the detriment of any gathered people to keep barriers between those gathered. But it is also dangerous to just let our own thoughts and beliefs fly. We must care and respect the other. We must be open to listen with the idea that we may be changed by the one to whom we are listening. Being in Christian community together is a really basic thing: it is about stories – hearing and telling stories together. The stories of our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our struggles and hearing another tell to us the story of God. Of God, who makes our stories of life into stories of love and grace. Of God, who welcomes us all into arms that show love in its fullest – without demands, conditions, rules. Just because we are. Stories of God need to be told to us. Sometimes they are corrective. Sometimes they lift us to new heights. Sometimes they are simply in a hug, or a held hand or a smile.

    Wendell Berry, the author of the poem I read earlier, is a really good southern story teller. What is inspiring to me is that he lives what God has called him to live. While not traditional to many of us, his is a life that strives to live the gospel life Jesus has given him. And, he is often maligned for doing so. Most of us would nod in agreement with the broad themes of his writings as they seem to be about what we call good traditional American values; values such as those found in living in small communities and good hard work; in living simply and with less electronic connections. But most of us would not explore to the extent he does: what such values mean to our daily way of life. Consider his environmental perspective on the golden rule, spoken at our National Cathedral on Earth Day, 2012: "Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you."

    Wendell Berry has found his own way of responding to Jesus’ invitation to come and see. Through his stories we are invited to look deeper at life with God; we are invited to come and see what God’s kingdom looks like. That’s what followers of Christ do. They point us to Jesus and God’s kingdom come.

    A new day had arrived for Andrew and that other disciple. An invitation to come and see brought them to a new home, a new way. And after seeing Jesus, after spending some time with him, they could do nothing else but bring others to come and see, too. God’s will for us is really such a simple story. Come and see. Pay attention. If Andrew and the other disciple hadn’t been paying careful attention to John’s words, Jesus would have just passed them by. Pay attention, for God is all around. Consider the lilies of the fields and the treasures you store up. Notice your neighbor and the little children. Listen and look for God. See where Jesus lives. Take a closer look at the life Jesus lived. You know, when we wander into another’s home we begin a new relationship with them. And as we deepen that relationship and see how they live, we will take something from them into your own life as well. And if you hang around long enough, their story becomes a part of yours. And when that story is God’s, faithful living begins to follow. Come and see. Then go and bring others. I don’t think Andrew had a plan in bringing his brother Peter to Jesus. He wasn’t trying to “save” him. He just knew that Jesus was something he couldn’t keep from his brother. The same is true for us.

    If you believe that a relationship with God has transformed and is transforming your life, in what way will your life become one that makes Jesus known to others?

    What is common among all those who encounter Jesus is that they become the storytellers of God. John has spent his life preparing the way for others to know Jesus. Setting their hearts and minds on transformation, on turning their lives into something holy, ready to receive the new gift God is offering. And Andrew spends a day – just a day – hanging out in Jesus’ room. He is so transformed by the experience that he brings his brother so he can hang out with God’s new word, too. Mathew, Mark, Mary, the woman at the well, the healed leper, the demon-possessed man, even the demons themselves, become the storytellers of God.

    That is really all that God asks of us. Become storytellers of God. Find ways with and in your life to tell the story. Like Wendell Berry. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. Like……………you. As each of us takes the Word into our lives we give it a new voice. And our voice, as imperfect as it is, is the only one Jesus asks us to use. We would do well to remember that Jesus doesn’t ask us to wait until we know exactly what to say or what to do. Or to wait for us to perfect or to be sure that we will get it right. Just begin to tell the story with our lives so that others, too, will want to come and see. As John did. As Andrew did. Point others to the Holy One. How? Maybe it’s in a classroom, on a canvas, through a book. Maybe it’s through needlework or knitting. Maybe it’s in song, or at the computer, or in a prison or in a nursing home. Maybe it’s on the softball field or on the dance floor. But however you tell the story, tell the story your own way.

    Come and see. This is where everything begins – in relationship with God. Find ways to hang out at his place. God-with-us. His place, our place. It gets all mixed together. Come and see. God’s new dawn bathes us with infinite possibilities to come and see. Andrew and the other disciple woke up one day and God just strolled by. Even in what seems like ordinary tasks and lists of to dos, the extraordinary is there.

    While some of us may be celebrating this week and others will be protesting. Still others are dealing with life – a great loss of health, a loved one, a job. Others still are dealing with great joy – a healing, a new love, a new job. These are the stories to share with each other. And to share them with the heart and mind that not only might we be changed, but that we should be changed. In such stories our hearts and minds get fixed on the mount of God’s unchanging love. The love we are to offer to each other.

    Amen.