gather in and gather around,
incline your hearts and
listen closely for the story of who we are.
Add your own voices to
the story of what God has done.
Claim God for yourself
This week’s Narrative Lectionary Reading is taken from Joshua 24. In the unfolding story of the people making new lives in the “Promised Land” Joshua takes a moment to remind them who and whose they are. Whenever I read these “recaps” of the Ancient Israelites story I’m struck by two things.
The first is how rich and imaginative the oral tradition was in those ancient days. I long to recapture this practice in our lives and communities. Some might even say I’ve become a bit obsessed with the art, practice and privilege of storytelling. I love the digital age, the opportunity to learn and relate and be challenged in the context of the Global Community.
I love words and text and imagery but I want to balance these things with having a story, a story I’m connected to, that I’m implicated in whispered in my ear. I love the intimacy and the humanity of real-life storytelling. I can forget the person in a facebook feed is real and whole and has as complicated and complex a life as I do. But if you’re sitting across the table or standing in the middle of my circle speaking your truth into the open, you better believe I will see your humanness. Is it just me?
The second piece that strikes me is the piece about privilege. The storyteller (and later story recorders… and later story canonizers) have significant power don’t they? Who tells the story and how they tell it shapes the identity of the community, and the communities place in the world for generations. How do we decide what parts to tell? What to highlight and leave out? How do we paint our friends? How do we paint our enemies? Who’s side is God on in our stories? Do we ever enter communities where we are strangers or outsiders so we can hear the story from another perspective?
When you think about the stories of your lives and your communities how do you tell them? Whose version is ‘canonical’? Who has the privilege of the voice, the pen, the mic?
When I tell the story of my own life I love the version in which I’m a survivor, determined and independent. I love the version in which I am creative and interesting and interested. But there are pieces missing from that version aren’t there? There are moments I’ve failed badly, I’ve broken promises, I’ve been wrong, I’ve been self-centered or self-righteous (this might be my achilles heel), dependent or just plain ordinary (gasp!).
Is our faith community a place we bring our best selves and tell only our best stories? Is it a place we can hear the depths of one another stories without judgement or fixes?
Telling the Truth About Ourselves
We often think the easiest thing,
is to only share the good parts of our lives with one another and with God,
the career successes,
the sweet and easy parts of our relationships
the parenting wins,
that time we kept our cool,
stood up for justice
or had the best, right, funniest answer.
We are sure the world can’t handle our inner ugliness.
We are certain that we are the only ones who have failed,
that our relationships are the only ones to sustain cracks,
that we are the only parent who has let down a child, or a friend, or a stranger in need.
and so we keep the hard parts of ourselves hidden and our ugliness gets uglier.
We can’t imagine that God would embrace our trauma and turmoil,
we are afraid God won’t love our selfish, mean or broken hearts,
we don’t believe that God’s grace is so expansive that we can reveal our true selves
and so we don’t tell the truth about ourselves.
But here’s the thing,
You are not alone and
healing happens in the light of day,
reconciliation is grounded in telling the truth,
and love isn’t love if it’s built on conditions.
God’s grace really is so expansive
it will hear and hold and transform
your WHOLE story.
Yes, we are broken,
but we are also beautiful children of God,
so take in this good news:
In all things,
you are seen,
you are loved
and you are forgiven.