Perhaps more than anything….Storytelling is at the very root of our religious tradition…..
The stories are told….
The stories are heard…
The stories are passed down from generation to generation….
The Old Testament reveals to us the stories of our past, where we come from…and the unfolding relationship between God and God’s chosen people….
As we begin this season after Pentecost, we begin to realize that these stories begin to unfold from the beginning…..with the creation account we heard last week, the story of Abraham this week…..and will continue to carry us through this season all the way up to All Saints Day, chronologically following the story of God’s people…..from Genesis through Deuteronomy.
The New Testament writings reveal to us how people lived in the time following Jesus’ death and resurrection….how the newest “Christians” made sense of it all? How they lived out their faith in conflict and peace, struggling to make sense of the Resurrection and their call to discipleship.
During the season of Pentecost, these stories unfold in fourteen weeks of rather uninterrupted accounts from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. In which Paul, reveals that he is set apart by God for preaching the Gospel, he also seeks to encourage and assure them about those things that God has given to them. Aware of the unfolding conflict between Gentile and Jewish Christians in the Roman Church, he then proceeds to offer support and guidance to the early church. (Wiki “Paul Letter to the Romans”)
Then there is the Gospel. Where, after a brief stint in John, we return to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, as is generally characteristic of lectionary year A.
And it is hear where we encounter the reality of fear. In this portion of the larger missionary discourse, Jesus offers direction to the disciples, telling them several times about the terrible things they will encounter as disciples, and then as if to sugar coat it he quickly tells them, to have no fear…..to not be afraid….. before he continues to tell them all the bad things that might happen to them…..
this passage might also invoke a sense of fear in us….
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth, I have not come to bring peace , but a sword.”
the seemingly mild mannered Jesus, born in a manger among animals, halo above his head……is held in stark tension to the Jesus we hear about in todays gospel.
This somewhat sharp tongued Jesus, declaring that he has “come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against his mother” reminds the disciples that while they shouldn’t be afraid, they should also know that Jesus seeks to offer radical shift in social relations, power and authority, that will not always be well received….and that at times might cause conflict even among family members. That the road to discipleship will both destroy and create new relationships……
Jesus seeks to teach the disciples that through discipleship they too will fall subject to the same pain and discomfort that he is exposed to in his ministry…but at the same time they will also experience the joy and rewards of following him.
These stories along with those told in the psalms…help guide us through our worship and our common life together, reminding us of where we are from and where we are going…
Sacred Scripture becomes the way in which we as Christians understand
who we are,
why we are and
who we are called to be……
these stories are the fibers that knit us together both as individuals and communities of faith, but also bind us to other communities of faith…
I’d like to invite you to close your eyes for a moment…..
think about where you find yourself today…..in the great stories of our faith…..
what story from the bible jumps right into your mind…..
what story can help guide you during this particular season of your life….
Maybe you find yourself on the road to Emmaus, at the well with the women…..or maybe you find yourself in exodus struggling to find the promised land……
where does your personal story meet our sacred story?
wherever you find yourself…be there….pray from there……
And if you couldn’t think of it right away…I encourage you to think about that question in the weeks to come….
Where does your personal story meet our sacred story?
The practice of being able to find ourselves in scripture is not one that necessarily comes naturally to us….
we often listen to the stories cerebrally understanding their meaning or studying them….
…but when we are able to extrapolate from our own daily lives…..and begin to weave ourselves back in to the sacred story….
We are able to see both scripture and our lives in a new way….. that is where the magic truly happens…..that is where grace is born.
What about St. Matthew’s?
What is our story?
What is our communities story in the larger story of this block, this deanery, this city, this diocese……
Where does our community sit in the larger survey of sacred stories….
Although I have not been a part of this community very long, I got rather emotional this week, seeing the back hoe take out the plants outside my window and the parking lot…
in my sadness I turned the corner and there were a couple families outside the Baldwin entrance with preschool and kindergarten age children….looking at the back hoes….sooo excited because they had never seen one sooooo big before…..and the parents were eager to learn what was going on here……
I saw a man driving down El Camino with a look like “oh my gosh I didn’t know there was a church there, Where did they come from?”
I overheard to passerby’s on the street corner wondering “what was going on?” and “how beautiful that church is”
All around us the story of St. Matthew is shifting….
In the midst of this shift……where do we find ourselves in scripture…..
Are we the parish in exile, feeling dry and parched as we travel through the dessert looking towards the promise land, wondering if and when we will ever make it there?
Are we the parish at the Wedding Feast in Cana, where though we think we have run out, we realize that God continues to provide from God’s abundance?
Are we the parish listening to Jesus, assured by him telling us to not be afraid, but reminding us that things will not always be as they are….or as they have always been.
What is our sacred story?
And where is it leading us?
What will it teach us about God and about ourselves, and about the community around us?