Both my parents were avid readers.
They always had a book by their chair at home and took one with them wherever they went.
Now, my 91 year old father is always listening to stories.
Due to macular degeneration, Dad is legally blind and unable to read words on a page.
Yet, because of the wonderful blessing of Services for the Blind,
my father is able to listen to books…all kinds of books.
The way the service works, we list the type of literature Dad enjoys and they send books from those categories…most of the time. Dad likes mysteries and thrillers from authors like Child and Ludlum, Louis L’Amour westerns, as well as historical novels and biographies. For the most part, he receives books from those genres. However, sometimes he’ll end up with stories he never would have chosen.
I remember hearing a book he was listening to and thinking, “that sounds like Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” Sure enough, it was. Another time, somehow Dad got into a cycle of coming of age books for teenage girls. The thing about my dad is, because he loves books, there is rarely one he won’t finish once he’s started, even if it isn’t quite his cup of tea.
(Although, after the second teenage girl book he did send that collection back) (-:
Stories, whether read, listened to, or told, have always been a part of my dad’s life.
Growing up, Dad remembers everyone getting a chance to go around the table and share a story
from their day at dinner time.
Now, every evening, I call my dad and we take turns sharing the stories from our day.
Stories inform, stories engage, stories reveal, stories challenge, and stories shape.
We find ourselves in the stories we receive…the stories we share…and the stories we shun.
In the Isaiah lectionary text for this Sunday, the Israelites needed to be reminded
of their story with God.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?” the prophet asks.
Of course they knew, of course they had heard,
but they were living in exile,
and the temple, the holiest of holy places, had been reduced to rubble.
They were living a story they never would have chosen,
a story that was hard to believe, yet all too real.
They needed to hear again the words of their story with God.
The Israelites needed to receive anew the story told them “from the beginning”.
Their God was the everlasting God.
They needed to hear that their Creator God Who knows each member
of the starry host by name, could not and would not forget them.
They needed to remember the story of their everlasting God Who would not only
give strength to their weak places,
but would also help them to walk,
help them to run,
and would even help them to fly.
Yes, they were living a story that was hard to believe,
but there was a greater story at work, unfolding, being written by the Author of all
that was, and is, and would be.
Like the Israelites, many of us and those around us have been living a story
we would never have chosen, a story that is in some ways hard to believe,
and certainly a story that has seemed at times all too real.
And like the Israelites, we need to hear and share, remember and proclaim God’s story.
It is God’s story above all stories which has the power to transform us by God’s gracious degrees, closer to the glory-likeness of Christ our Savior. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Yet, also like my dad, we need to listen to and receive stories we might not normally choose.
The Author of all is always writing through circumstances we don’t understand and even through voices with which we disagree.
In another of this Sunday’s lectionary texts (1 Corinthians 9:16-23) Paul talks about
allowing space for and entering the stories of others who think and live differently:
for the Jews he says he becomes like a Jew, for those living under the law he becomes like one under the law, for those not having the law, he becomes like one not having the law,
and for the weak, he becomes weak.
Paul enters the stories of very different others
and in doing so, allows God’s story to be experienced through the welcome
of grace and space.
May it be so with us.
May it be so with us, because our Everlasting God entered the finite story of our humanity
that we might experience the eternal welcome of God’s grace and space.
With eternity as our story’s end, there should be no scarcity of grace and space in our welcome
to others, even those who think and live differently from us.
As we enter this season of Lent, stories will be shared, heard, received, and shunned.
God’s stories, our stories, stories of those we love, stories of those we don’t,
stories of circumstances celebrated and stories of situations grieved,
stories of all kinds, welcome and unwelcome.
Through them all, may the greater story of God’s unfolding, living, eternal grace
guide our listening, receiving, sharing, and proclaiming.
To the glory of Christ our Savior, may it be so.
Thankful for you and the gracious page of our shared story,
If you would like to view past editions of Grace for the Journey, follow this link: https://fairwaydistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/