Monday, January 18, 2010

What Will Be The Story That You Tell?

Recently religion has been in the news.
Brit Hume, the anchor from Fox news got in trouble recently when he suggested that Tiger Woods should convert to Christianity because there he would find forgiveness.
Brit took a beating from a lot of people about these remarks.
Some even suggesting that he was being narrow minded in his views.
This past week, Pat Robertson suggested that Haiti’s problems where due to a pack with the devil they made back during the slave revolt that lead to their independence from the French.
In my mind these two uses of religion and of our Christian faith are very different.
On the one hand Brit Hume was witnessing to his faith in Jesus Christ that it is about forgiveness and grace.
On the other hand Pat Robertson a pastor, who should know better, used his pulpit to spread what amounted to half-truths and misunderstanding when what was called for was God’s words of comfort, compassion, justice, healing, and hope.
Of course some folks used these two stories for political fodder in the public war over God, but this is not a political matter it is a religious and theological one about when and how we use God’s name.
It is about what stories we tell about how God relates to us in this world.

This morning’s Gospel reminds us that God always saves the best for last.
Just when we think everything is lost.
Just when we think all our lives are empty without hope, here comes Jesus Christ.
Into the middle of whatever situation we find ourselves Jesus comes.
This story of Jesus filling the water jugs with wine has always been a mystery to me.
Why is John telling us a story about a wedding that Jesus attends?
What is the point?
Then you read and reread it carefully.
What you see is Jesus acting with grace?
It might not be his time, but there is a need to fulfill.
His hour is our lost time.
The bride and groom need wine.
So he acts.
Jesus gives the good wine at a time not expected and a place not expected.
And what we discover is that God has saved the best for last.
Yes God rescued the people from slavery, led them to the Promised Land, yes God gave them the law and prophets.
But now God has done something even greater.
God has given his Son for us.
John’s entire Gospel is about what Jesus does for us on the cross.
The stories that he tells are not merely whimsical antidotes about things Jesus did.
They all point us to the grace of God given in his Son Jesus Christ.

Let me suggest that the stories we tell one another.
The way that we frame those stories are important.
Because, our stories of faith are a witness to the world about our faith in Jesus being the best for us, and for the world.
That is all Brit Hume was saying.
Was if you really want to be forgiven and know forgiveness I know know no better place then Jesus Christ.
He was asked what advice he would give Tiger to help him get over this difficult period.
Brit Hume told the story about God’s forgiveness in Jesus Christ and offered it to Tiger Woods.
He was not putting down Buddhism by witnessing to his own faith.

On the other hand the story that Pat Robertson shared was one of half truth.
It was not about Jesus ability to save, comfort, or give grace.
It was about what he thought of the Haitian people and that is irrelevant to the conversation.
Whatever, sins they may have committed in the past has nothing to do with God’s love and care for them.
And to suggest otherwise is to totally miss read the Gospel.

Compare the words of Pat Robertson to that of the parents of Ben Larson.
Theirs is another story about God’s work in Haiti.
Ben Larson was a seminary student from Wartburg seminary in Iowa. It is an ELCA seminary in Iowa.
Ben went to Haiti to help set up a new Lutheran Church by teaching lay leaders and pastors how to effectively spread the Gospel.
Unfortunately Ben Larson died when the building they he, his wife, and his cousin were working out of collapsed.
This is what Ben’s parents wrote about their sons passing.
“As an infant Benjamin Judd Ulring Splichal Larson was wrapped in the arms of God in the waters of baptism, and from those waters, his life was an outpouring of love and joy, laughter and play, in response to God first loving Ben.
Ben’s love of God, walking in accompaniment, passionately loving others, listening and learning from those who are poor across the globe, drove his serving.
We give thanks to God for the incredible joy of knowing Ben. His laughter, playfulness, passionate heart for those who are hurting was manifest in his daily life.
He delighted in the privilege of serving and knowing God, laying out his life in joy.
Most of the people who died in this deadly earthquake in Haiti are the poorest of the poor in this hemisphere.
Ben went to Haiti to teach theology and scripture in the new Lutheran Church of Haiti; but more deeply to learn from these people loved by God.
In his young death his life joins the bodies of the poor.
In the Haitian rubble Ben’s life joins these dear beloved people of God: all those parents crying for their children; young widows calling out for their husbands; new orphans searching for their parents.”
That is the true story of God’s work in Haiti, not some half baked theory based on an urban legend.
It is about God’s care for them in a time of great tragedy.
What will be the story that we tell about God in difficult times.
What will others say about us and our lives?
Will we tell stories of death and resurrection?
Of love and laughter.
Or will we tell stories of prejudice and half truth.
It makes all the difference because it will be the faith you witness to in the world.
What will be our faith and our witness to God as the people of Concordia Lutheran Church?
I pray we will be the people that speak of God’s forgiveness, and of his love for the poor of the world.
And we will sing songs about how God’s grace is always poured out into our empty vessels.
How God saves the best for last.
How God sent his son to be our grace and life.
The stories we tell make all the difference because it will be what people will say about us.
Since tomorrow is Martin Luther King day I am reminded of what he wrote about churches from the Birmingham Jail in 1963.
Dr. King wrote:
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward.
I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification?
Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred?
Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary black men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?"
What Dr. King was asking, and what I am asking this morning is what will we say to the world in need of the Churches moral leadership?
What will be the story we tell about our God?
This morning in the afterglow of Martin Luther King, in the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti, in the disappointment that our supposed heroes are also fallen men and women, in our own lives often feeling empty and burned out, I say that our God has saved the best for last.
That this hour is God’s hour and he has come to all of us in the person of Jesus Christ.
God has come and given us grace and love, given us hope and resurrection.
And given us the power to speak and act for and with the poor amongst us.
May God continue to call us to acts of love.
Let us continue to tell others the story of our God who saved the best for last by giving his only son to die for us.

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