The Joy of Story

“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen” – John 3:11

As many of you know, my uncle from Texas came to visit a few weeks ago.  In his retirement he has taken to tuning pianos and gifted those services to the church, tuning three of our fourteen pianos.  He watched our boys one night so Lindsay and I could enjoy a fun night out with friends.  When we called to check in he told us that he and the boys were swapping stories.  They had read one or two books but decided they would rather makeup stories and share the with each other.  My uncle would tell a story then Jackson would tell a story.  It sounds like they spent over 30 minutes doing this.  (I think the boys figured out they could stay up later using this tactic!) 

When we lived in California, Jackson attended the preschool housed by Christ Presbyterian Church, my previous congregation.  As such, I got to bring him to preschool a couple times a week.  We would often pass the time sitting in traffic on “the 5” with me telling stories.  Jackson has always been intrigued by stories of “when I was a little guy” growing up in Jackson, Minnesota.  Growing up on a farm gave me plenty of material for our bi-weekly drive.  It was challenging to think of good stories beyond the four or five I tell on a regular basis but the exercise eye opening for me.  Upon reflection, as I told stories of my childhood, I remembered the magic again.  I realized how far I’d come in life.  I realized how fortunate I was to have the family I do.

Our new member class began with the question, “How did you come to be sitting in the new member class at First Presbyterian today?”  A fairly open ended question but one of great importance.  The answers were beautiful, absolutely beautiful.  We heard stories of the Living God at work in real ways, guiding, correcting, and carrying people through their lives.  Every time I hear real, authentic stories of faith I can’t help but be encouraged.  These stories remind me of why the church is essential.  We hold these stories in our midst.  We nurture these stories.  We share these stories.  We need these stories to remind ourselves of God’s power.

You will often hear me say, the Bible is simply the older testimony and newer testimony.  Testament is closely related to the word testimony.  Our stories, while not scripture, have the ability to strengthen and energize faith.  Unfortunately, we often keep these stories to ourselves.  At church we often try to push in as much information as possible and leave little room for these important stories.  While it is important to continue learning and gaining knowledge about who God is through scripture and gifted Christian authors, we can actually do the same through hearing each other's stories.  The way God has been at work in our lives also helps us understand God’s nature and work in the world. 

One of the ways I hope to allow the whole congregation to get to know our new members is by having them share some of their stories during worship.  As the new members get to know the rest of the congregation, I hope they can do it through hearing your stories of faith also.  After all the Gospel of John does tell us to “speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen”!  May we all find joy in hearing the stories of God’s work in our midst!

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Jeremiah