Monday, December 21, 2015

Before the Christmas Pageant - We are the stories we tell.




(This was my introduction to the Christmas Pageant at Peace Lutheran, Alexandria VA, Dec 20 2015)

A few weeks ago I was in a training session about discipleship. What's that, you ask? The great commandment of the resurrected Jesus is to go and make disciples.  Since then, one of the purposes of church is to do that with every generation: make modern disciples who will follow the ways of Jesus.  In this time and place, we can’t assume people learned discipleship at home or in church as youngsters.  We have to teach them.  Hence, the training.

In the session, we searched for a word to use for “disciples-in-training.”  It’s too long, too church-y, and just kind of weird.  People brainstormed words around the table:

Mentee. Student. Apprentice. Novice. Fledgling. 

We all burst into giggles when someone said below his breath, “Young Jedi.” 

Ahhh, Young Jedi, prepared to follow Jesus you will be. 

Our confirmation students would probably better understand what we’re doing with them if instead of calling them ‘confirmands’ we called them Padawan.

For those who don’t know, those are Star Wars references.  That’s a movie.  And the reason I bring them up isn’t because I’m a super fan – I’m not - but because it's very clear that Star Wars has influenced a lot of people’s lives.  With the release of the most recent episode, the anticipation was at its highest.  People dressed up in costume, memorized their favorite parts, and even reenacted famous scenes.

What a weird thing to do?  To get SOOOO into a story that you would dress up and reenact it?  Why would you do that?

Indeed. Why?  It must be because that story means something. 

Stories give meaning to our lives; they help us understand our larger context and give us connection points to previous generations.  As one South African saying goes, “We are the stories we tell.”  We are the stories we tell and even more we are the stories we repeat.

As I prepare to spend time with family in the next weeks, I plan to be intentional about listening to their stories, especially the ones I’ve heard before, because those are probably the ones that matter most. I’ll hope people have the grace to listen to my stories too.  Though it costs nothing, listening to another person's story may be the most precious gift I give this Christmas.

All our stories are best understood against the narrative of that larger story that holds us all together.  As we tell our stories, we may even be able to see ourselves in light of that great story: a story of good and evil, innocence and corruption, complex father-son dynamics, ancient wisdom passed on to the hope of the next generation, empire and rebel, an underdog team of misfits, sin and forgiveness, justice and mercy, the need to save the child, the hope that the child will save us.

This is not Star Wars, of course.  This is the story of Jesus and it’s the story that makes us who we are.

We can't get enough of it.  We tell it and read it and sing it and write books about it and make sure our children know it.  We listen to older generations reminisce and we marvel as younger generations catch its spirit. 

We become superfans. And yes, we even dress up in costume and act it out. We are the stories we tell.  Now let's hear from our youngest disciples-in-training as they tell us the greatest story of our lives.