Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Nugget, Oct 2006

“Jesus did not speak to them except in parables.”
(Mark 4.34)

After one of my children’s stories several years ago, an elderly gentleman in the congregation asked me, “Was that story true?” My mind flashed back to one of Andrew Greeley’s novels I read probably 25 years ago. He writes at the outset that not all of the events in his story actually happened, nor are all the characters real people, but the story is nonetheless true.

At the beginning of the movie Big Fish, the narrator says that what follows is the story of his father’s life, probably not the way things actually (factually) happened, but the way his father told it to him, which is the truest telling of the story.

A boy of 4 or 5 came up to me several years ago while I was serving First Christian Church Stockton and said, “Pastor Steve, where do you get all these stories?”

“Well,” I said, “Some I hear from other people. Some I read in books. And some I make up myself.”

“What?!” he replied incredulously. “You mean some of them are

“No, not fake,” I said. “They are all real. Sometimes the things that come from our imagination are as real and true as anything else.”

Why is it so easy to dismiss the value of stories? We need our stories. We have to have them. We ARE our stories.
  • What is our faith, if not a story?
  • What would communion be apart from the story it tells?
  • Who is Jesus apart from his story?
  • And what was his message apart from the stories that he told? The Gospels of the New Testament even say that Jesus told his followers nothing BUT stories. (Mark 4.34)
First Congregational Church of Murphys is not just a building at Church and Algiers Streets. We are not just bank accounts and programs and committees. We are not even simply a set of beliefs or a collections of historical facts that go back 140 years. FCC is a story, a drama that has been playing out for longer than any of us can remember. And as best we can tell, it will continue for a long time to come.

As with any story, the unfolding of it, the dénouement, takes time and requires patience. It has a life of its own. We wish we could control and steer it in exactly the right direction. We would like to manipulate it for our purposes and determine the precise times when things happen. But it does not always work that way.

As our Search Committee knows. As they continue their work, and as their quest gets extended beyond what most of us expected, it behooves all of us, myself included, to let the story unfold in God’s good time. This does not mean that we throw up our hands and say, “What ever happens, happens.” Not at all. We are partners with God in this whole drama. Not passive partners, but partners within whom God dwells, the God who is still speaking, the God whose spirit moves among us to advance the story as it moves along.

October is a time of celebrating World Communion Sunday and the power of God’s love to turn our hearts toward the needs of the whole world. How else can we do that faithfully without a sense of the story that we are, and the God of all humanity that gives our story its credibility and its soul?

Steve Shepard
Interim Pastor