Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What's your story?

What is your story?

A story is a seed.
Shared, it is planted.
Shared again, it is watered.
Shared even more, it starts to grow.

Mark's gospel is one where the stories come fast and furious.
You only get the most important information from Mark.
As the earliest of the gospels written,
it can be seen as the bare bones story
which then Matthew and Luke elaborate on
and include other traditions and stories into.

In the gospel passage for today, 
we see what a difference Jesus makes
in the synagogue in Capernaum by sharing his story.
"They were astounded at his teaching, 
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as the scribes."

I want you to think about this for a moment.
Jesus goes into a Jewish synagogue
reads from some portion of the Hebrew Scriptures,
the grand story about God and the people,
and talks about it as one having authority,
talks about it as if it was his story.
Because,
let's face it,
it was his story.
Jesus, as part of God,
knows the story
in ways no one else
knows the story.
He does have authority
to talk about God and the people
because he was a part of that story.

Jesus was able to share the Biblical story with the greatest authority
because it was his story
He, as God,
had lived it.
Knew it.
The best story we can tell with the greatest authority
is always our own story.

You can see in the gospel passage this morning
that once Jesus shares his story,
he has planted a seed.
And it immediately 
is watered,
is shared,
starts to grow.
Mark says, "At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee."
His story was a seed
which started to grow.

Jesus was planting seeds in this story. 
New ideas about what the scriptures could mean. 
About what God could do.
Jesus healed a man of an unclean spirit!
Who was this man and what was his story?

Some of the people who heard him in this passage, 
shared the story with others, 
some of them became followers of Jesus, 
a growing plant. 
Some of them were mad or confused or they doubted. 
The seed was still planted.

Unlike Jesus,
we have not lived the Biblical story in the same way as it is written.
Yet
we have the authority to share,
to share the story. 
Jesus gives us the authority when he commissions his disciples and sends them out as apostles. We are to go forth and teach with authority about Jesus. 
We know deep in our hearts how much we need a Savior. 
We know how much Jesus has done for us. 
We don't need anyone else to tell us we can share the story, 
we have the authority as Christians, 
as baptized members of the Church, 
as followers of Jesus.

Not all of our stories are exactly the same
we have lived the story in many other ways.
We have our own stories
about how God and the Bible
intersect with our lives.
Learning how to share our own story can be hard.
We, as humans, are very sensitive to how other people are going to understand our stories.
We worry that if we share our vulnerable spots
they are going to judge us
they are going to change their opinions about us
they are going to feel differently about us.

I'll tell you a secret.
Sharing your story with other people
does change how they look at us,
what they feel about us,
but usually,
practically almost always,
for the better.

When we see other people sharing their stories with courage and vulnerability
we think other people are brave
we think they are courageous.
To give you an example
I'll share an important story with you.
When I was in my last parish
my boss asked me to do a presentation on the Stations of the Cross
during Lent
because I had been to Israel and walked the Via Dolorosa,
the traditional path which Jesus walked on his way to being crucified.

Now I could have done this presentation in two ways.
One, I could share the scriptures from the different stations and showed the pictures I had from walking the way.
No emotional engagement.
Clean. Simple.
And maybe boring.

Because 
let's face it, 
the best part about lectures
are always the stories.

Or two, I could share the scriptures, show the pictures, 
AND
share with everyone what they meant to me.

Tell them about how walking the Via Dolorosa made me feel.
Tell them how important the Stations of the Cross service was to me.
How it saved me at a time in my life when I was seriously lost.
Lots of emotional engagement.
Not so clean. Not so simple.
And a little scary.

I went to one of my coworkers and shared with her my dilemma.
I told her my story.
I asked her what she thought I should do.
But we all know.
Stories are always much more powerful.
I decided to share the whole story.
The Stations of the Cross.
The Via Dolorosa.
Middle School.

I woke up the morning of the presentation,
scared and worried.
All of my parishioners were going to judge me.
They were going to think I was crazy.
They were going to think I was mentally unstable.
Unfit.
I did the presentation anyway.
I told them how when I was in Middle School
I had suicidal thoughts.
I thought everyone hated me.
I thought no one could ever love me.
I thought the world would be better off with out me.
I told them about how my church was doing a Stations of the Cross service with the children and youth.
And how I got picked to play Jesus.
And how rehearsing those stations,
about how walking through the steps of Jesus' last hours on earth
made me realize what
love
he had for us.
What
love
he had for me.
And how that changed my life.
And how walking the Via Dolorosa,
only a few weeks after I graduated seminary
and a few weeks before I got my first call in a parish
helped focus
and motivate me through all the difficult time of a huge transition
and is the foundation of my call to the priesthood.

And of course,
I showed them the pictures.

And afterwards,
no one thought I was crazy.
No one said a single thing about being mentally unstable.
They thought it was a wonderful presentation.
They loved the added depth and engagement they had
when we did the Stations of the Cross service
because they had new perspectives on what was happening in the story.
They had a new connection with me
and I with them.
It was a story which planted a seed of relationship
which grew strong 
under God's watchful eye.

Jesus has shared his story with us.
It has been handed down,
centuries after centuries.
It has been planted,
it has grown,
it has died,
and been resurrected,
replanted
grown some more.
In this endless cycle
of life and death,
resurrection and new life.

What is your story?