The Power of Story

At Starrsville UMC we are in the middle of a sermon series based on the book, Just Walk Across the Room, Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels.  I like this book because Hybels is concise in his writing style along with providing practical ways that we are to share our faith.  Jesus was clear at the end of the gospel of Matthew.  Go and make disciples.

Most often we concentrate on the “make” word and mistakenly believe that in order to share our faith we have to make the decision about whom we share our faith with.  This usually means making judgments based on whether or not people are just like us or similar to us–are they “safe” to approach, are they basically a good person just a little misled, or they are really bad off and need someone to pray a specific prayer or quote some specific scripture so that they will be saved.  We forget that Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God are in charge of changing and transforming people.  Our work is to offer an invitation for people to walk with us as we, too, are becoming followers/disciples of Jesus and being changed and transformed daily.

Sharing our story of the ways our belief in Jesus has changed our lives because we choose daily to follow Christ is the best way to develop friendships/relationships with people.  We cannot share our story until we hear other’s stories of their lives–what’s happening in their lives along with all the stuff that keeps them from following Christ.  It’s a messy process Hybels warns, and it is a process.  Salvation is a process.  We’re all a mess.  We’re all sinners.  Daily we strive with the power of the Holy Spirit to live with and accept the love of Jesus for ourselves just as much as we share it with everyone we meet.  In what ways can you serve others each day by listening and hearing what they are willing to share with you about their life?

In the gospel of Luke chapter four, Jesus is in the synagogue and handed the scroll of Isaiah.  He reads:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, 
    because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, 
    to proclaim release to the prisoners 
    and recovery of sight to the blind, 
    to liberate the oppressed, 
   and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon all followers of Christ so that each of us can be sent to preach good news to the poor, 
    to proclaim release to the prisoners 
    and recovery of sight to the blind, 
    to liberate the oppressed, 
   and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

All we have to do is listen to people’s stories, discern the ways we can help and serve them where they are, and take action to do and to go and share (preach is usually a word that will get most of us in the wrong place) the good news of the Lord’s favor.

 

 

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Remembering My Baptism

Last week I attended the Practical Peacebuilding Conference sponsored by Emory University Candler School of Theology and The General Theological Seminary Desmond Tutu Center. On Thursday afternoon we participated in a noon time Holy Communion service in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd on the Campus of The General Theological Seminary.

This is the baptismal font as you enter the sanctuary, and it is filled with water.  I so enjoy the practice of having the baptismal font full and available so that as I enter for worship or prayer I can touch the water, make the sign of the cross (if I choose to do so) and remember in the feel of the water my baptism over 44 years ago in the “Southern Baptist” tradition of immersion.  

The history and sacredness of this space was inspiring. Through the Gates Into the City, A Metropolis, A Seminary and a Chapel, a book written by Timothy A. Boggs, photographed by Bruce Parker and an introduction by Sam Waterston puts it this way:

The Chapel of The Good Shepherd stands proudly at the heart of The General Theological Seminary, its red brick and brownstone bell tower rising more than 130 feet into the Manhattan sky.  Viewed from the Seminary’s second entrance on Twentieth Street, the Chapel’s portal has a double function and a double meaning.  It is both a central part of the internal design and spiritual life of the Seminary, and an open door–a conduit between the intimate sacred space within and the larger Church and city beyond.  Rather than facing inward as a traditional collegiate chapel might, or standing opposite the main entrance to the Seminary, the Chapel looks outward, into the southern light, beyond the lawns to the city itself…The Chapel is always open and unlocked, the inviting portal welcomes all. (p. 11)

With the power of the Holy Spirit may I continue to live out my baptism each day and be a portal to those who need to feel the love of Christ.

Thank you, again, Sandra T. Johnson, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, for giving me this book I quoted above when you noticed my joy and admiration of being in this sacred space.

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Freedom is…

Today I read this story, “Two Reasons Why Obama Thinks Religious Freedom does not Apply to Business” from Catholic Online.  Here’s the link to the story:
http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=49151

I remember the time when almost all employers provided “free”/no extra cost  health care coverage to employees.  It was a “given.”  Then something changed.

Health care costs began to sky-rocket and some employers began to charge fees to employees for health care coverage.  Discussion and debate about why health care costs sky rocketed and why employers became the “middle men” for providing health care would really be informative in helping us to shape health care insurance and the provision of health care in the U.S.  Unfortunately, the process became partisan politics and the experts/policy wonks in D.C. hijacked the entire process.  We seem to have short memories in this country.

Please don’t think that I am reminiscing about the “good ole days” and how things used to be and should be now.  No, that’s not my point.  Instead, when I read about a company like Hobby Lobby who pays for their employees’ health care and decides that they want to customize their health care plan the way they see fit, I see clearly the ways that government being in charge of health care and many other life decision-making options in our lives leads us down a dangerous path.

I equate this to the “no tolerance” policies of many Boards of Education in cities and counties across this country that have children expelled for having any type of medication in their possession or for bringing a toy gun to school or any other “no tolerance” decision that leaves out discernment and wisdom in decision-making.  When we decide to allow government, policy experts/wonks, and politicians who are not statesmen and stateswomen to make decisions based on “no tolerance” and strict legislation, we are going down a dangerous pathway.  Gun control laws and lack thereof fall into this category as far as I’m concerned.

My Christian faith reminds me that Christ gives us freedom.  That freedom is not cheap, and it requires critical thinking , discernment and wisdom.

I long for the day when we could have the freedom that bears on the really difficult discussions that need to take place that could bring light and solution to the problems behind sky rocketing health care, people who use guns to murder, and using the resources we have in ways that solve problems instead of adding to and creating more problems.  I have not yet seen any solutions from D.C. and our political leaders that I resemble this kind of decision-making.

Freedom is costly.  Most of us refuse to pay the price of freedom.  We want someone else to be responsible for solving our problems.  May God help us to be truly free.