“So what’s your story?” A friend took me into a Jersey diner near his home, and the waitress introduced herself, shared menu recommendations and then asked me, “So what’s your story?” She wanted to know more about me, where I grew up, where we lived now….more about me! She asked great questions during the meal and shared some about her story. When we left the diner,I was satiated….I knew some of who the waitress was and she knew something of who I am. Both our stories, we discovered, were also anchored in our faith and God’s big story.
As followers of Jesus Christ growing as disciples, we are energized and rooted by important and powerful levels of story–My Story, Our story, and The Story!!!!
My story: Many of our stories have plot twists and turns, moments of heartache, some failures, faults as well as high moments and connections. Sharing our stories helps us engage, embrace and empathize with people. We find connections to each other in stories.
Jesus had and has a way of caring for people, listening to them…to us deeply, eating and literally walking alongside. He doesn’t turn people away; rather he understands their story and ours, and seeks to be active in them to turn lives around, to heal and to connect our story to God’s BIG story! This week take time to learn more about someone else’s story, even someone you think you know well in your family, friends or congregation.
Why get to know someone else’s story? Stories connect us – and we were created to be connected, to God and to each other. You may have heard it said that “you can’t hate the person whose story you know.” Stories bring understanding, healing, wholeness and hope. When we know each other’s stories, we work better together, we worship better together, we serve better together, we share God’s love better together.
What do sharing and listening to stories have to do with following Jesus? We are living in the middle of God’s story – for us and for our neighbor. When we share our stories, we are sharing God’s story for us. When we listen to the stories of others, we are listening to God’s story at work in the world. Stories help us grow deeper in faith and help us live out the faith practices. When we share stories, we encourage each other. When we share stories, we know how to pray for each other; we invite each other into our lives; we give the gifts of our time and experiences; we learn about each other and how God is at work (study); we identify ways to serve our neighbor; and we worship the God in whose story we live (and move and have our being). *Story Acronym Tool-Northeastern Minnesota Synod Discipleship Challenge
Our story: Our individual stories are part of wider stories of family and different groups that give our life meaning and purpose. We are part of a Wesleyan Way of living out our faith–united by hearts aflame by God’s GRACE and our relationship with Christ and then working to live out our faith in ways that bless, heal and bring hope and justice to God’s world. We have Spiritual DNA, or a faith story that traces back to John and Charles Wesley and the revival they led in England that then became a church here in our newly forming United States (1784-Baltimore Christmas Conference-starting of the Methodist Church) .
Our faith story here in Southern New Jersey is rooted in and part of the earliest Methodist story in our nation. Francis Asbury, who along with Thomas Coke, was one of the first two Bishops of our church, and he modeled circuit riding as he led revivals and preached in churches across our region. Several of these pulpits are still in use today.
As our nation was reeling and healing from the bloody Civil War, Methodists again worked to anchor communities in faith, building new faith communities in growing villages and forming Camp Meetings where thousands gathered for worship and revival. Malaga, South Seaville, Ocean Grove and Ocean City still have camp meetings or “tabernacles” where worship is held each summer. You are part of a BIG story of God’s love being lived out around the world that continues to grow and make a difference.
From African University raising up new leaders, teachers, doctors to mission efforts around the globe- we are UNITED in Christ and continue to METHODI(cally)ST make a difference in God’s world.
You and I are part of God’s BIG, never ending story! It is rooted in the pages of the Bible from creation, through the characters in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) like Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, David, the prophets from Elijah, to Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel and others. These woman and men show us how God’s story connected with their story. God’s story comes to fullness in Jesus birth, His life, teachings, ministry, death and resurrection. The New Testament contains four Gospels (or Jesus story from 4 different writers) it also contains stories and letters from the early Church-God’s unfolding story on the move from Jerusalem, to Judea to the uttermost ends of the earth.
Your local church is a branch of God’s Story on the move-the Gospel that took root in people lives in your community so much so that their story is rooted in God’s Big Story.
Today, in the midst of this season of disease, distrust, disappointment and even despair, we have a GREAT Story to tell-GOSPEL or “Good News” to share. It is a story of how God worked and works in lives, even ours! We have a story to share that the Creator of the universe, one who wove us together in the womb, that God wants to be a part of your neighbor’s and family member’s story AND become an even bigger part in our story, too!
So that we can live happily every after…forever with God, we have work to do and abundant lives to live. Please join me because “I love to tell the story!”
Pastor Brian Roberts
*STORY Resources: STORY Acronym Tool (Northeastern Minnesota Discipleship Challenge)- going deeper with your story and getting to know others -a faith based resource with good questions for self and others (CLICK THIS LINK)