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Monday, January 31, 2011

Stop Living in the Moment!

In Acts 7, Stephen has outraged the religious authorities and he is about to be stoned to death. Yet instead of defending himself, he recalls the story of the salvation of his people. He recounts the ways in which God has been with them through all the twists and turns of their history as a people, implying and trusting that God will be with him as he faces his accusers.

Stephen's story of salvation is an example of how he who is in the midst of a very bad situation--about to be stoned--gives credit and praise to God who has helped his people face adversity. I admire that ability to see and tell his story from the perspective of God's care for them in the midst of difficulty.

The way we tell the story of our lives becomes a lens by which we see life and define ourselves. It becomes a script for us in how we see ourselves, others, the world, and even God. Some people's story is that of how everyone has hurt them and they are victims. Others who may have even more experiences of adversity tell their stories in terms of how they have overcome; if they are people of faith, they give credit and praise to God for helping them overcome. We should be very careful how we tell our stories since we can spiral down into despair or find hope and courage to face the future.

Even how we tell the story of our church can provide a script that can bring despair or hope to us as a people. I would guess that there are no churches in the Minnesota Annual Conference who have not faced adversity in the past and yet they have perserved. How do we tell our story? What did we learn in those times? Do we live so much in the moment that we fail to remember how God has been with us in the past?

How do you tell your story in such a way that empowers you instead of deflates you? Let me give you an example. I was told when I was in the 8th grade that it was "too bad you're a girl, you'd make a great preacher." People often gasp in our 21st century context (although not everyone!!!). Yet I understand that the person who said that and people who believed it (so as not to recommend me to the seminary I wanted to go to because I was a woman) had no imagination for women in ministry. Even I didn't initially have the imagination that it was possible. But now I do. I could be the victim in my own story or I could see it as what continues to happen in our lives, faith, and culture all the time: there's so much we don't have an imagination to understand. See how far our imaginations have gone! How much farther might they go in the future? What is God waiting for me to imagine today?

So how do you tell your story in light of God's salvation history in your life?

How do you tell your church's story in light of God's salvation history?

How might we someday tell the United Methodist Church's story in light of the context of God's salvation history?

WDYT?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gary Korsgaden Says:
Our journey through our lives of faith are filled with hardships and joy. Over time the trials we face build and shape us. The church experiences the same. We should acknowledge Gods many gifts he has given us,tolerance, understanding and strength are just a few to help us face these challenges. The church as it goes through its "Great Reformation" will emerge stronger and responsive to the needs of its body. We must never lose sight of "Gods Mission Statement" amidst the perils the church faces.

John Lage, Jr. said...

Bishop Dyck,
I couldn’t agree more with you about the importance of our stories and how we tell them.
In July of 1993, I stopped being the drunk I had been for well over twelve years and turned back to God. In the past year, God has made yet another enormous difference in my life. I am now certain that my current ministry is to testify to God's power and ability to make changes in even the most lost of God's children. To that end I have begun to tell my story and to create a place where others can tell their faith stories. That place is http://www.spiritualjourneystoday.org You can read the story of much of my journey there and discover materials created by others and by me. There are songs, sermons, articles, faith journeys and links to other sites and places where spiritual journeys are being told and lived. If you want to know how God worked to help me get this started during Lent last year, please read the post entitled "God Months".
Placing a comment in your blog entry, which encouraged us to tell our faith stories, to think about how we describe those journeys, and to ponder the role of God's salvation in those stories, seemed a perfect way to testify to God’s continuing work in the world today.
Blessings to you from a member of Christ UMC in Rochester,
John Lage, Jr.

Laura B. said...

Bishop Dyck,
So much of life depends on our perspective, our attitude, which is always a choice. If we choose to look at life through the lenses of the Bible and scripture, we learn about the goodness, faithfulness, all-knowing love and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because His spirit lives within us, I believe what David said in Psalm 45 is true, "Thou has 'loved righteousness, and hated wickedness' therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows' (verse 7). We need to be mindful that our righteousness is in Christ, in confession and forgiveness of sin (against Thee, Thee only have I sinned). Being created in God's image, we can never find true joy apart from that relationship with our Lord.
Just as the Israelites suffered whenever they forgot the Lord, we, too, will suffer if we turn from the truth of his word, the gospel of salvation. As John L., Jr. said above, we need to build one another up by sharing our faith journeys. I'm in the midst of turning more than 30 years of prayer journals into stories that testify to the omnipresent, omniscient, holy God of justice, mercy, grace, and truth.
In the world today, the time may come when we, too, like Stephen will face the choice of being willing to die with our testimony on our lips.