Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June 30, 2014

Dear  Friends,

Summer offers us leisure hours to talk with one another, be it over a campfire, a glass of wine, on the porch , in the coach travelling to a distant destination. These are the perfect times to tell stories.

You and I are storytellers. Before we are thinkers, analysts, philosophers, we are storytellers.

Often, we underestimate the value of the stories we tell, because we think the are uninteresting, colorless, ordinary. But our stories are full of daydreams, fears and hopes,   memories and experiences. The themes of our stories, whether we know it or not,  are big themes: the dimensions of love, the pursuit of life to the full, the search for meaning, how evil is conquered. We tell stories that are sad, or full of humor. Sometimes we tell the same story over and over again until we are satisfied that we got the nuance and timing   right.

My mother’s father, Casimir, was short. Maybe  4’11’. He was mild, a man of prayer, old when I was little, with a thousand wrinkles on his face and neck. Grandma told me how he got to America. As a youth in Poland, he was involuntarily conscripted into the Russian army. He deserted, fled across multiple borders and came here. My  little Grandpa.  He grew to be a giant in my mind because of what he did.

This cherished story is more than a memory.  It is a source of invaluable lessons about gentleness and courage, about a sense of what life is for, about what it means to stand up to tyranny.

As we listen to one another’s stories, we clarify our convictions and reexamine the shape and texture of our lives.

We need to give one another permission to tell our stories, otherwise, they will dry up within us. We need to give one another permission to tell our stories without editorializing or asking distracting questions.

Slowly, we might come to realize that we are redeemed by discovering God in our human story… not that God is captured in our stories, but that God is revealed in our stories.

A look at Scripture shows us that God is revealed more in stories than in discourses.
In the Hebrew Bible, we read about how God spoke, wrestled,  loved, challenged. The parables of Jesus – the stories of Jesus- grip us, disarm us, uplift us, puzzle us. We find ourselves in these parables.

Then there is Jesus’ story. It’s told in the New Testament in a way that occasionally frustrates people who have no taste for stories, but who demand chronology and explanations. A lifetime isn’t long enough to probe the stories about Jesus.

Stories can be idle chatter. They can be used to manipulate people These stories do not enhance life. So we need to be discerning about the stories we value.

Our best models for life-giving stories are the disciples on the way to Emmaus. They walked with Jesus and only recognized him in the walk and talk and meal they shared.

On to the stories the summer will offer us.