Be the Story

the_nativity_story_08

Scripture Text:  Genesis 1: 1-3, 31a

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.

There is not one of us that does not love The Christmas Story.  It’s got it all–heartache, darkness, intrigue, danger, animals, innocence, an oppressive government, and a baby to boot.  It’s got all those things that make great tales.  No wonder it’s a bestseller!  No wonder there are so many songs written about it (that we at this moment cannot WAIT to sing and for some are even irritated that we are NOT!)  But for all the romantic notions of a baby born into a cold desert night in a small town on the other side of the world to poor, struggling parents, this story is not about a birth.  It’s not just a story about Jesus.  This is the Story of God.

 

It began long before this.  It began in the beginning.  It began when God breathed a part of the Godself into being and created this little world.  And as the story unfolded, as God’s Creation grew into being, God remained with them, a mysterious, often unknown Presence, that yearned to be in relationship with what God had breathed into being.  And once in a while, God’s children would stop what they were doing long enough to know and acknowledge the incarnations of God.  Once in awhile, they would encounter a burning bush or a parting sea or an unfathomable cloud on the top of a mountain.  Once in awhile they would stop, take off their shoes, and feel the holiness beneath their feet.  But more often than not, they struggled in darkness, they struggled in war, they struggled in oppression and injustice because they didn’t see the Light that was with them.  God called them and God sent them and some were prophets and some were wise and some were yearning themselves to be with God.  Some wrote hymns and poetry telling of their yearning and others just bowed and hoped that God would notice.

 

This wasn’t enough.  It wasn’t enough for the people and it wasn’t enough for God.  God yearned to be with what God had created.  God desperately wanted humanity to be what they were made to be, to come home to the Divine, to be part of the unfolding story.  And so God came once again, God Incarnate, into this little world.  But this time, God came as what God had created.  And so God was born into a cold, dark night.  But the earth was almost too full.  There was little room for God.  But, on that night, in a dark grotto on the outskirts of holiness, God was born.  The Divine somehow made room in a quiet, little corner of the world.  God came to show Creation what had been there all along.  And, yet, there was Newness; there was Light; there was finally Meaning; there was God Made Known.

 

The Incarnation (the “big I” one!) is God’s unveiling.  It is God coming out of the darkness and out of the shadows and showing us what we could not see before.  God became one of us to show us how to be like God in the world.  So, in this season, we again hear the story.  We hear the story of God.  But unless we realize that it is our story, it still won’t be enough.  God came as God Incarnate into this little world to tell the story that goes back to the beginning.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  (John 1: 1-5)  And the story continues…BE the Story.

 

God delights in the human imagination.  No one person can claim to hold the key to unlock what God intended, because what God intended was for each generation to read its story into the text.  (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

 

FOR TODAY (OR YESTERDAY!):  BE the Story.  What does that mean?  God did not come into this world so you could celebrate Christmas; God came so that you would know it is your story.  BE the Story.

 

Grace and Peace,

 

Shelli

 

You Start at the Very Beginning…

Dawn in the wildernessScripture Text:  Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Do you remember the song from “The Sound of Music”?  “You start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.  When you read, you begin with A-B-C; when you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi.  The first three notes just happen to be Do-Re-Mi. Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti…..oh let’s see if we can’t make it a little bit easier…”  (Yeah, I’m a Sound of Music dork.)  We’re used to that…starting at the beginning, learning our A-B-C’s before we jump headlong into reading Tolstoy or something.  But, the writer of the Gospel According to Mark seemed to just sort of want to get this show on the road.  We’ve become so accustomed to the beauty and poetry of the nativity that somehow that becomes the season for us.  But here…”The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  That’s it.  That’s all you get.  No announcement of Jesus’ birth, no birth story, no stable, no inn, no manger, no Mary and Joseph and the babe, no shepherds, no magi.  Just that.  It’s sort of like the Gospel writer is saying “refer to the previous volumes”.  But, of course, most Biblical scholars will tell you that there WERE no previous volumes of the Gospel but that this one was the first.  So, what is that beginning?

 

Then it goes on:  As it is written….Essentially, the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is everything that came before–all the prophets, all the judges, all the Wisdom, all the kings, Elijah, Moses, Ruth, Jacob, Abraham, Sarai, all the exiles returning home, all the burning bushes and parting waters, all the covenants, all those generations upon generations of people who wandered in the wilderness.  And now…now appearing in the wilderness is this wild, somewhat unkempt, bear of a man who clothes himself in camel’s hair and eats what appears to be whatever crosses his path in the brush.  There were certainly those with “proper” upbringing and “acceptable” expression of their religious beliefs that probably would have been a bit embarrassed by the display.  I mean, maybe it would have gone down easier if it had been someone a tad bit more “traditional”.  (But then, really, was Jesus all that status quo?)  And yet, I’m fascinated with this character of John the Baptist.  He knew who he was.  He knew his place.  He was called to prepare the way.  He was called to BE the voice crying out in the wilderness.  He was called to prepare the way of the Lord.

 

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Here we are, in the wilderness of our lives, wandering a little aimlessly at times, trying our best to connect to God, to feel God’s Presence in our lives.  And yet, we know that God did not plunk down in the middle of the bustling city of Jerusalem.  God did not come in the way that was planned or imagined.  The Son of God emerged into the wilderness that was already there, already so full of God that the very earth shook.  The truth is, God had been there all along.  The good news of Jesus Christ was always beginning.  The same is true for us today.  What we are living is not some sort of prelude of a life to come; it is the very beginning of the story.  Maybe that’s our shortcoming.  Maybe we live lives limited by the chapters surrounding us.  But God…God came and comes over and over and over again, beginning, recreating, starting us over.  Advent is the season of beginnings–the beginning of the church year, the beginning of us, the beginning of what comes next.  Advent is not a preface to the high holy day on which we celebrate the Savior’s birth.  Advent reminds us that we, even now, are the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  The truth is, the story ALWAYS is at the beginning!

 

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. (Edward Teller)

 

FOR TODAY:  How are you called to prepare the way for Christ?  How are you called to begin again?

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

 

Prepare Ye the Way

Lighted PathwayScripture for Reflection:  Mark 1: 2-3

2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

We read this as a call to preparation, a call to hastily clean up our act before the Holy Child appears, a call to straighten up and follow the path to God.  But we forget about the ones who came before.  There has been waiting and preparing going on for centuries upon centuries of generations.  The word “Hebrew” is from the root “avar”, which means “to wander”.  What we have is a story of a people journeying home.  What we know is not the whole story, but merely a chapter of an incredible epic that God has written on our hearts.

Lately, I have gotten back to working some more with my family history, trying to figure out who came before, who was on the path before me.  I realized that I had quite a few pictures of the generations of women in my family–my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers, my great-great grandmothers, and even some great-great-great grandmothers.  So I set to work scanning and printing and framing and arranging and created a “Wall of Women”, those women in my family that are part of me.  I have eleven pictures on the wall and I and the rest of my family are now looking for others.  Of those women, I only knew four–my mother, both my grandmothers, and my Great Grandmother Stockdick.  And yet, I know them all.  They are part of me.  They are the ones that have prepared the way.

Jesus was not just plunked down from the sky into a manger.  Jesus came, God with Us, after eons of the earth straining to see the Light.  He came into centuries upon centuries of waiting journeyers, those who had prepared the way for his coming, not know what that would be but knowing that it would be.  Those that came before are not just a prelude to the story but are part of the story itself.

We, too, do not just appear on the scene.  We are part of the story–all that came before us and all that will come after us.  And a little more than two weeks from you when you sit in the sanctuary surrounded by candlelight knowing that, yet again, the Light has come, you will know that it does not just appear.  It comes after centuries of waiting; it comes after years of your life preparing for it and journeying toward it; and it comes at the end of this darkened season of Advent.  We journey not knowing what will be but that it will be.  We enter a Way that has already been prepared and prepare the Way ourselves.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Solomon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.  And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,* 8and Asaph* the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,* and Amos* the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.  12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.* (Matthew 1: 2-16)

photo(1)Catherine Coffman Morrison, the mother of William Patrick Morrison, who with Hattie Aurelia Brockway Morrison, was the father and mother of Zeta Helen Morrison Stockdick;   (2) Mary Angeline Egbert Stockdick, the mother of Adam Henry Stockdick and Sarah A. Klaiss Young, the mother of Elmira Young Stockdick, who, with Adam Henry Stockdick were the parents of William Chester Stockdick.  (3) William Chester Stockdick and Zeta Helen Morrison Stockdick were the parents of Ruth Mary Stockdick Williams, (4) Mary Elizabeth Little Williams, the mother of Lester Leon Williams, who with Ruth Mary Stockdick Williams, were the parents of William Don Williams, (5) Helene Sitz Krause, mother of Agnes Helene Angeline Krause Reue, mother of Helen Louise Reue Williams, (6) William Don Williams and Helen Louise Reue Williams, the parents of Helen Michelle (Shelli) Williams.

Reflection:  Who has prepared the way for you? How are you being called to prepare the way?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time…it’s always the beginning to a great story.  We all love a good story, one that grabs us and holds our attention all the way to the end, one that comes to some resolution that stays with us, whether it is a fairy-tale ending for a character portrayed as an “underdog” or one that leaves us with a sense of deep and profound loss or disappointment with which we must wrestle and live into ourselves.  We all love a good story.  I actually watched the last game of the Final Four last night.  I have no emotional attachment to either team.  (My “emotional attachment” dropped from the bracket several wrungs ago.)  But I really wanted Butler to win.  It’s just a better story.  Like I said, we like it when the underdog makes good.

The truth is, we all have a story.  Yes, our lives are veritable short stories within themselves.  But there’s something bigger.  There’s THE story.  You know, the one that begins, “Once upon a time there was heaven and earth, covered in darkness, until God brought light into being.  And then God filled this light-filled Creation with life–seeds that would yield growth, seasons that would bring rhythm into being, and living creatures to bring beauty and companionship and even sustenance to this light-filled place.  It was beautiful and life-filled and good.  And then God created the ultimate of creations–one who carried the very image of God within itself, one who could care for Creation and love Creation and be light.  God blessed it all and then God ceased creating.  And God looked at all of Creation and crowned it with the Holy and the Sacred, giving it just a glimpse of what it could become.  And God called that glimpse, the pinnacle of all time, “Sabbath”.”  (OK, so I took a little poetic license with the Scripture!)  The point is, it’s our story.  We were not created as individuals separate and apart from the story.  We were created as parts of the story.

Lent is a time to remember that, to remember that it’s not all about me, to remember that the story itself and all of its characters are bigger than the sum of all of us.  Lent is a time to realize that we are part of story that began long before we got here and that will continue long after we are gone and yet, we have always been a part of the story and always will be.  Lent is a time to let go of those individual wants and needs to which we hold so tightly, to let go of our need for our “story” to come out in a certain way, and to let THE story–OUR story grab us and take hold of our lives.  It is a mutual story but we all have a chapter to write, to write and then hand off to another, all without disrupting the story.  It is true that we don’t really know the ending, but my guess is that we all live happily ever after!

So, in this Lenten season, enter the story and find what chapter is yours to write!

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

Had to add this…even though they dropped early!