Saturday, November 14, 2009

Good News Or Else

We talked before (at least I have) about the importance of telling our stories and telling them in light of the Bible stories.
For example;
How can we comprehend what it means to hear God’s call without knowing the story of the burning bush that wasn’t consumed.
How Moses asked God, “Who shall I say you are?” and God’s answer, “I am who I am”How can we hear Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message without the knowledge of Moses confrontations with Pharaoh asking him to, “Let My People Go!”
How would we know the appropriate response to God without Moses and Abraham or Samuel’s story, when he answered God’s call in the night with “Here I am, Lord”.
How do we deal with periods of confusion and feeling lost without having Israel’s history as part of our story, knowing they wandered for 40 years in the dessert to learn dependence on God.
How do we face tragedy and sorry without understand the Exile, and Israel’s cries to God for justice, and restoration and God’s steadfast response.
How do we comprehend the depth of God’s love for humanity without the Christmas Story?

All these wonderful stories that describe the major trauma and celebrations of our life are from this book, the B-I-B-L-E.

But (and but always negates what came before it) But, if this book doesn’t contain GOOD NEWS for you, then why revere it, or even read it?
And if you don’t find hope and help in these stores, can you even call this the Good News?
Because if you find no meaning here for your life this isn’t Good News for You.
And if these core stories don’t touch you, or speak to your life, then where DO you go for Good News? Where can you find it? In that case, You may just be categorized as ‘the lost’.

Today we lift up the Bible, our source book for guidance and wisdom, the place we go for meaning, and the stories of our faith. The New Testament is as close to a creed as Brethren get, saying we take the ENTIRE New Testament as our rule for faith and living. (which means we embrace the contradictions we understand are in there as part of humanity’s experience and varied understanding of God.)

Today I invite you to think about the Bible and how these words are Good News to you. We each have our own experience with church and pastors and the authority of scripture. I can only tell you what this Bible means to me.

This was my father’s Bible. It’s not the first one I remember him carrying. We, mom, brother and I, gave this to him on the 20th anniversary of his ministry in September 1979. Three years later, in September 1982, he died of cancer. For those last three years, and thru the 6 months of his illness, this was his source of comfort and questions. It was the place where he tried to make sense of life and what lay beyond.

As his young daughter, I remember Bible stories from SS and especially from VBS. Don’t all of us who had the good fortune to attend those special summer weeks, have memories of acting as disciples, or crawling around as sheep or some other lively encounter with these stories.
I remember having to memorize psalms that return to my mind at surprising times to this day. (From the ‘Lord is my shepherd’ to ‘enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise’
My mother told me how afraid I was of Samuel’s story when I came home from VBS one year. “I don’t want God to talk to me in the middle of the night,” I said to her. I’m sure I spend a few nights in their bed after that particular fear.

As a young adult, I turned to words of promise in the gospel during difficult times, hearing Jesus speak the words,
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

As a young mom, working in the outdoor setting of a Christian camp, I listened again to the Psalms, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the starts, which you have set in place…”
And over the years I heard God’s voice speak to me, and I wasn’t afraid of the sound any longer. It was a persistent call that grew louder and louder and came from friends and from this BOOK and from sermons until I thought I’d run screaming from the sanctuary. (Never something a preacher wants to see!)
Until one day, walking down to the camp lodge in the season before camp opened, the voice calling became loud and persistent until I feel to my knees and said, “OK, if this is what you want, you are going to have to make it happen somehow.”
And I soon found myself in seminary unsure of where I’d work next but knowing that each step of the way was working out, just as I leaned my weight onto the foot ahead.

(I used to complain that I wanted to hear the stories in this book as if for the first time. I wanted to hear them new, not with all the memories of childhood, but really fresh, like the disciples heard them. I found myself in GREEK class, not enjoying God’s sense of humor. Be careful what you wish for.)

Thru life and thru death, these words have offered me substance and comfort.
“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is MORTAL may be swallowed up by LIFE.”

“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things. Love never ends;

These words, this book of books and letters, of poems and songs have offered hope and meaning to humanity for millenna. What has it given to you?

What is the good news of the Bible? Can you name it? Do you claim this as YOUR good news?

The Good News comes through all the stories in this book, that God’s love for humanity can’t be undone by human unfaithfulness.
Whether in a desert worshiping a golden calf or
Running away from arresting officers in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Good News came again when God entered into humanity in the life of one man; in a way difficult for us to comprehend, but that people experienced in Jesus.

And because of that story, HIS STORY, there hope for my story. And hope for yours for everyone who calls this book the GOOD NEWS, can ask for strength to live another way than most of the people around us.
When love seems far away, we can turn to the Good News and see the Love of God made human in Jesus, the Christ.
When the world calls us to concentrate on wealth, we can hear another voice that calls us to focus on people.
When the world is fixated on vengeance, we can find strength to reach out with compassion.
When violence rips through the fabric of your life, we can find courage to speak the words of peace instead. We can help others find this other way, the way of non-violence and non-resistance.
Because Jesus absorbed the violence that took his life, we too can lay ours down in trust that God can make sense of it all. That even death is not the last word.

All this, because the stories in this Book, The BIBLE, tell of the never-ending love of God for us. I call it, GOOD NEWS,
And if this is GOOD NEWS for YOU, then THIS – Is – YOUR- Story, too.


Mompriest said...

I am leading a Bible study on the Gospel of Luke that begins with us telling our spiritual stories, pondering the parables in Luke, and then considering how our stories connect to the parables. Story is a wonderful way to hear the good news. Thanks for sharing this sermon!

Sophia said...

Love the Greek story! And the acknowledgment that due to human sin and free will and cultural development the Good News/Book sometimes isn't...A key step in helping people appropriate the ways it has been and what we need to do in community to make sure it is in the future.

Thanks for your prayers and good wishes as I do some prophetic work myself!

Anonymous said...

this is a powerful and important message and i'm glad you posted it. i love knowing that you read and preach from your father's bible... the tradition keeps getting richer through your work. many, many thanks.

Rev Nancy Fitz said...

thanks for your visits. It was interesting to preach this one, standing in front and holding Dad's Bible.
another week begins now, ah well.