Last week I got to go to the Celebration of Biblical Preaching (#cpb2013), an annual conference at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. Over the next three days I’ll be reflecting on three major take-away’s; things that are still resonating with me a week later. Take-away #1 is here. But for today:
Take-away #2: Telling the story of where you come from is important. In whatever medium. Tell it.
Grace Imathiu is a Methodist ordained elder, currently the lead pastor at Community United Methodist in Naperville, Illinois. She was all about stories. Oh my goodness. Did she tell one.
Here’s one of them. The literary context was folklore. She told the story of a woman who was pregnant with a son, and in the river near the village they lived a terrible creature lived beneath the surface of the water. If its name was spoken, it would devour the whole world (I didn’t write down the name of it! That’s ironic). One day someone spoke the creature’s name and it splashed out of the water and ate the whole world – except the part of the world just beyond a huge rock outside the village. The woman had her son and he was the first child to know the world as “the world after the creature devoured the world.”
He grew up and would go off and come back to his mom saying “Mom I found [the creature]!!” and again and again, the mom would say “No, thank you for trying, but that is not the creature.” But eventually, the son finds the creature and kills it, only after its name was again called.
The point of the story is that, as Imathiu said, “the creature is racism. The creature is sexism,” implying that we let systematic oppression run amok, devouring the world. We “shush” their names, even though it’s the “shush”-ing that allows the oppression to exist. No, we can’t talk about racism, we can’t talk about about sexim, we can’t talk about my child being the bully, we wouldn’t want to offend anybody. It’s only when we NAME the oppression and systematic terrorism that we allow it to be seen and be eliminated.
Reminds me of this video I saw on facebook today (thanks Kim!):
This young woman’s story and the story of her family is making her critically think – what does it means to be a woman? The story that Imathiu told brought to light (at least for me) the danger of keeping “-ism’s” silent. Stories are important.
When it comes to those with a Christian faith, how are we keeping the Christian story alive?
If I took a stab at it, it would go something like this: Out of God’s boundless (possibly reckless?) love we all were born (other Abrahamic faiths too, Islam and Judaism, and those seeking or non-religious) and we were gifted the opportunity to be stewards of creation. I would talk about how we were foreigners, how we were liberated from Egypt, how we believed in gods instead of God, how we saw Jesus walk the earth pre- and post-resurrection, how we keep dying and rising only by the grace of God.
Do we tell that story with such fervor? Fervor that attests to our constant risk-taking that is required to take care of this earth, to take care of our neighbors, to communicate how we feel so full of life because of God. Do we tell about the courage we somehow find to cling to God’s promises and jump into opportunities to serve and love our neighbors and God’s creation, every day?
We are hopeful that we tear out of the fog of fear (and sexism, racism, bullying, insecurity) far enough, to hear, clear as a bell, that we are loved by God, all of us.
We can lift each other up and tell the story: You are loved. You are worthy. God’s grace is for you.
When you think about daring to tell the story of where you come from – what does that feel and look like?