Telling Our Stories of Jesus

Third Sunday of Easter

There are foundational stories in our lives. The story gives a sense of who we are. 

In 2015 I was part of a group that trained people working on the Millenium Development goals to tell a story that would catch the attention of their various communities. Train them to build support for the eight goals that the UN set to alleviate poverty. We have to find our own story of why we are doing the work bringing, (the global issues of economic development, poverty alleviation, health, aid policy, and environmental sustainability) to the forefront of our church’s conscience. We taught them to tell their stories in two minutes and to make an ask. 

The participants wanted to cite chapters and verses of news articles and urge people to give. They wanted to give a story of facts, a story of their brains, and we urged them to tell their story, a story of the heart. People from the middle of this country felt they had no connection to the story of worldwide poverty and would think it impossible to connect to that aspect of the bigger human story. In telling stories, people often feel that they need to tell a lot of back story; if they do that, well, the people will understand. 

So they workshopped their own stories, and they would tell them to each other, and they were well over two minutes, and then someone would say this, “Hey, you know when you started to talk about your father’s desk, when your mother turned from the stove, your brother’s car, that is when you caught my attention” And then the story would blossom, and these midwestern Episcopal children of God would find a story that was theirs and that story reflected on a need so great in the world that people came forward and wanted to change the world.

We convinced the diocese to give .07 percent of our budget to the goal. One story at a time. 

It is where I first started to talk about my Mum, where I dug into her story and was able to see myself as indigenous and what the ‘good intentions of the church’ did to the community. 

The story of two traumatized men slipping out of town who have their own stories to tell. They are on the road, and as they walk, I imagine they either have nothing to say to each other or they would burst out of telling the story over and over again. Trauma is like that. Recently my dog died, suddenly unexpectedly, on a walk she just died. I told the story over and over again. I told my next-door neighbor, the vet tech, friends, and co-workers. 

Friends in Richmond, I told it over and over again. My friend Don said that is what Trauma does; you tell the story repeatedly, trying to have it end differently. Perhaps a new set of ears will give a different outcome. A new end to the story is when the dog stumbles and she is fine at home. 

The disciples on the road to Emmaus were telling themselves …perhaps it was a mistake that the man who died was not our teacher. The man they said they saw was not our teacher. Perhaps we can go back in a while, and it will be okay perhaps. Perhaps we should duck our heads lower and walk a little faster. Perhaps we can evade the authorities and not have to face Rome’s wrath. Or the obligations to live into the teachings. 

We know this story. We know a new set of ears joins them and tells it again. 

The Road to Emmasus is a foundational story. People who come to church have heard this; it is a story that evokes something in your conscience. I think I cannot picture myself at a rock-hewn tomb, but I can see myself at a table with friends, even long-lost ones. 

Recently Our Bishop Mariann told us at the Diocesan convention that what she’d like to see in the next year is more of the people who are gathered around these altars to be able to tell a story about Jesus Christ’s life. Many of us can say something about his birth, even if we’re quoting a Christmas Carol, and we can say something about his death. We get that from being BOTUM Christians, but what is your foundational story about Jesus? Do you have one? The road to Emmaus? Jesus walking towards the gates of the city and letting the children come to him? Healing? Rebellion? Hanging out with his disciples? Feeding? A line that sticks with you. Right now, I am meeting with the adults who want to be confirmed in two weeks when Mariann is here, and I want them to tell me what story they carry of Jesus. There is something about knowing how you connect to that story that allows you to step in more deeply with this big story of the heart. 

So we pick up the stories, and we re-tell them again and again. We roll them around in our mouths, good storytellers try new ways to start them, and we see what sparks an interest. Ahh, perhaps I will start at my Father’s Desk, My mother turning to talk to me from the stove, and my brother driving me to Hockey. And here is the thing about stories you kind of have to hold on to them, and hearing them anew might give you a handle as we attempt to hold on. 

No, I am serious; if you are sitting here or are online, WHAT is your story about Jesus? What catches your attention? We are people of the story; we are people of revelation. We are people who keep on seeking. 

For that, I say thanks be to God.