As I chronicle our origin and journey thus far here interweaving it with reflections from Scripture, I hope you will find yourself somewhere along the way: hearing something which resonated deep with your core values, or something which motivates you to be a little more active in the world. We share our stories for the benefit of others. Some of our stories are fraught with struggle which has been overcome. Others have triumphed over hate in our world. Some have dreamed a vision for a world that could be and worked to make it a reality. Even if you think your life has been a bit less eventful, you have a story worth sharing.
Sharing stories is not new in the church. For anyone who grew up Evangelical, it was common for others to share a story of their conversion to Christianity and subsequent salvation as a testimony for others to find their own heavenly security. My difficulties with this tradition is that it often turns Jesus’ work of giving new life into a transaction of getting a ticket into heaven. Such an equation does not account for the present other than counting up saved souls. It does not require us to be kind to others, to love others, and instead sets up an excuse for narcissism or passiveness. Though we may not be saved by good works, our world is transformed by them, as are we.
That transformation in my own life began through my hearing of another story. When I went to church camp for the first time in the summer of 1993, I was so excited that I was finally old enough to go. I was a bit of a hyperactive kid who sometimes made impulsive choices like playing too rough with other kids in the cabin. I lost my pool privileges one day when I had shoved one of my friends into the bunk bed a little too hard. Though it was an accident, my actions had consequences. That afternoon, the counselors all had their weekly meeting to plan for the big evening activity, so we, the campers, were put in front of a 32” TV in the conference room to watch a movie.
What unfolded on the screen resonated deeply within me. As a young girl named Lucy traveled through a wardrobe in the spare room and met a fawn named Mr. Tumnus, my senses of imagination and adventure were stoked. Later, when Edmund turned against Peter, Susan, and Lucy in exchange for some Turkish delight, I was aghast. Yet, when he was brought before Aslan, whom he also betrayed to the White Witch, and finds forgiveness, I understood. The Christological allegory helped me understand that even in the midst of my shortcomings, our God, who was likewise raised from the dead thus conquering the evil in our world, would forgive and love me. An adventure in Narnia was not so different from my less fantastical life. There was reconciliation and healing available to me if I wanted it. New life was possible through the almost magical power of the resurrection.
To reduce that magic to anything less than the hope of new life does a disservice to the Gospel. In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus is challenged by a group of Sadducees who were known for the denial of resurrection in Jewish theology. Their discourse on marriage is framed to be a “gotcha” moment to catch Jesus in error in his teachings. Not willing to take the bait, Jesus reminds his audience past and present that it does not serve us well to define God in human terms. Our God is the God of the living, and those who have gone on before us are among them. He shows them that they are focusing on the wrong story, trying to explain things from the wrong perspective. The Eternal One is not constrained by our understandings of time and place. Our constructs do not have the capacity to contain the goodness of God. Why focus on death when we should be talking about life?
We have the gift of knowing how the story goes from here. Jesus himself would be resurrected even if the very concept was doubted by the Sadducees. We have hope that things will not always be as the are. Taking our own stories, our collective story, and weaving them with The Story, we find hope that our world can be more loving, more just, more equitable, and more unified.
So often, Jesus answered a question with a parable, a narrative metaphor that helps expand understanding and often shows the questioner that they are simply asking the wrong question altogether. In his time, religion itself had started trying to answer the wrong questions. Instead of focusing on the gift of life in the present and promised into eternity, faith had been reduced to an accounting of actions in a way not so different from our present. The Easter message is not about an entrance fee but instead reminds us that even from the darkest of places, like the crucifixion, new life can come forth. Regardless of what dark chapters of death are in your story, they are not the end. Light, life, and healing are just as possible for you as they were at the resurrection. That deep magic of God’s love can bring newness once thought impossible.
Each of us have those stories where light shone in the darkness. Imagine how those stories might bring hope to those who are still in a season of darkness. Imagine how the power of the resurrection might affirm that new life is possible against all odds. Now that’s the kind of story I want to hear—the story of a church on the brink of death who chose to entrust their mission to those who could carry it on and follow the Holy Spirit to where God is calling. Out of death, resurrection comes bringing new life however different it might be. We can be bearers of that hope, bringing it to those who need it most. Lanterns lighting a way out of the darkness. Our stories have that power, that deeper magic which can transform. We are called to build with our stories—to build a kingdom where justice, inclusion, and family are known by everyone. May we build that kingdom together, for this is your Sacred Place.
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