Power at work within us

Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.   

It’s been such fun, this week, to read some of the replies to our summer questionnaire. It feels like Christmas in July, with a Christmas stocking that has no end. I hope that many, many more of you will take a few minutes today or tomorrow to complete it.

One of the questions is about the Faith and Story project.

This project came into being after I began working with a group to help plan my sabbatical, which begins next May. (Don’t worry, it’s ages away and you’re all going to have a great time while I’m gone.) This dream team (also known as the rector’s Sabbatical Planning Support Group), helped me envision what I wanted to do on sabbatical in a way that would incorporate all of us in similar endeavors: reflecting on the stories that make us who we are.

In the formal part of my sabbatical, I’ll have three months to reflect on my own stories and write some of them down. As a parish, we’ll spend a year—this September to next September, longer if we want—exploring our stories. I have a friend, a writer, who likes to say that everything she writes is a love story of one type or another. I believe that every story we tell about our lives, whether we tell it in writing or in music or in clay, is a faith story of one type or another.

For some of us these are coming-of-age stories, for some of us they are disaster-survival stories. For others they are intimate experiences of God’s grace and redemption. Or healing stories. Miracle stories. Stories of loss and comfort, mourning and hope. Love stories. The point is that we all have many, many stories to tell. Our stories, especially when we share them, make us stronger as a community of disciples.

On the Faith & Story page of our website there is a place where you can tell a story in 150 words. This may be fun for some and impossible for others, but I suggest you try.

This Sunday’s lectionary contains a bunch of great stories, all of them faith stories. I hope you will think about your own story while listening to these stories again.

First, there’s David, God’s beloved anointed and Israel’s favorite son, who went through such travail to become king. He succumbs to all the sins of self. He impregnates another man’s wife, and abuses his kingly authority to have that good and honorable man killed in battle. In doing this, he betrays his better self and he betrays God. Where are you in this story? When I hear it, I feel like I’m an unhappy David fan, sitting on the sidelines and going no, don’t do it! Stop! Turn back! There are grave consequences to David’s actions. But God knows and loves all of David, just as God knows and loves every dark cranny of our souls. God never gives up on David. One hundred and twenty-two words.

Now, imagine that you were near Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius, surrounded by a hungry crowd. You know what’s it’s like to be hungry. Your father was a day-laborer who never brought home enough money for the day’s food. You were the practical one in the family, the oldest child. You helped your father in the fields, then helped your mother care for the youngest children. You prided yourself on knowing what things cost, and so you were emboldened to say to Jesus: “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for these people.” You were astounded to watch Jesus turn a few loaves and a few fish into a feast for five thousand hungry people. So astounded that your whole understanding of grace and abundance changed. Now you became the person bold enough to trust God and share that trust with everyone around you. One hundred and forty-nine words.

Or, you’re on your way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. You’re carrying some food your parents packed for you to bring to the extended family who will gather for the high holy days. Thousands make the same journey, many looking for food. Someone grabs you by the shoulder and takes you to the teacher-healer you’ve been hearing about, Jesus. He takes the food you’re carrying, saying it will feed the whole crowd. You can’t imagine. Then you watch as Jesus lifts the food up to heaven and gives thanks to God for it. Oh, yeah, the food isn’t mine, it’s God’s, you remember. Suddenly, there is enough for everyone. You go on your way with a full belly and a full heart, giving more food away every chance you get. You, God, and that guy Jesus are all in cahoots. You can’t wait to tell your parents what happened. One hundred and fifty words.

Or, you’ve watched this amazing feast but now it’s time to row across the sea to Capernaum. You and some of Jesus’ followers climb into the boat after sunset. A strong wind comes up; the sea gets rough. You wonder why you got into the boat with those guys. You want to see the shore, but you can’t see anything. One of those dark times that we all have. Suddenly Jesus comes out of nowhere, walking on the water. Whoa! The sight is even more terrifying than being out in the storm. “Do not be afraid,” he says. The sea calms and the boat reaches the shore. “Be not afraid” has such a familiar ring to it. God said it all through the scriptures you have dutifully studied. God said it to Abraham, to Jacob, to Rachel, to Hagar. Maybe now you’ll believe it. Do not fear. One hundred and forty-seven words.

Where do you see yourself in today’s gospel? Or in the David story? What’s your story? Are you doubtful? Afraid? Hopeful? Peaceful? Close to God? Far from God? How will you live that out this morning? How will you tell your story this week?

Gather up all the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost. Gather up all the fragments of a life like David’s, a life like mine or yours, including all the misguided bits, the fearful bits, the joys and the treasures.

Gather up the fragments, so that nothing may be lost. What’s your story?

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