My dad was quite the storyteller. Whether we were sitting around the table, taking a drive up the mountains or across the plains to visit my folks’ hometown in western Kansas, or sitting around a campfire in the wilds of Wyoming, he always had a story to tell.
l couldn’t always vouch for the truthfulness of his stories - the one about “jumping cactuses” or his tales about the number and size of fish that he caught during any of his many fishing trips - always left me wondering if my leg was being pulled. However, whenever he began a tale, I always found myself enrapt by his storytelling abilities and the stories he told.
But what I truly enjoyed - what I loved the most to hear - were the stories of his childhood - of the time he and his cousins found and accidentally blew-up his father’s still hidden in the river bank, of the no-hitter he pitched while in high school, of his relationship with his younger brother and cousins, of how he met and wooed my mother. I never tired of hearing these stories. These stories shaped my father into the man that he was - why he did the things, and thought the things, he did. And each time he told them, I always learned something new, something I didn’t know before, about my father.
We are all shaped by the experiences of our life - experiences which become paragraphs and chapters in our own stories just as we are shaped by the stories of those around us. This is the power of stories.
The same is true for our biblical stories. The stories in the Hebrew Bible - our Old Testament - tell the stories of God’s love and faithfulness for the Hebrew people. The four Gospels tell the stories of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. The Book of Acts of the Apostles tell the story of the Holy Spirit and her impact on the lives of the apostles. The letters of Paul and the other Epistles tell the story of the early church navigating its way through uncharted territory. The Book of Revelation? Well, it is really just a beautiful story. Each of these stories, however, shaped not only the people who heard them, told them, or read them, they shape us also. They inform how we look at and think about God, how we look and think about Jesus, how we look and think about the world and the people in it.
We all have stories to share - stories of our faith and about who and how we came to love God, Jesus, and the church. We also have stories of our every days life experiences - whether those experiences were joyous or sad, uplifting or downtrodden, easy or hard, or just every day life. What we as Christians should do, what we as followers of Christ are called to do, is to seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in those stories - our stories and the stories of those people we meet, and then invite everyone to MORE.
This is evangelism - the sharing of the Good News and its impact on your life. Take for example, the woman at the well in the Gospel of John. She met Jesus on just another day in her life. And yet, that meeting was transformative for her because he told her amazing things about herself. Its transformative nature wasn’t lost on her - she named it, “He told me everything I had done!” And then , she celebrated it, sharing it with everyone in her village. And she invited them all to MORE - to come and see this great man. What a great example for all of us!
We are coming up to the Feast of Pentecost - a day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and made it possible for them to share the Good News of Jesus throughout all the world. We then turn our eyes to the Season after Pentecost - “Ordinary Time” we call it. And yet, it is far from ordinary. The liturgical color turns to green which is a sign of growth - growing.
Let us use this time to ask ourselves - what are the stories of your life? What experiences shaped you - what experiences in your life made you the person you are today? These are the chapters of your life. And when you have answered them, go and share them with your friends, your family, your neighbors. And in your sharing, be intentional in seeking, naming and celebrating Jesus’ loving presence in them - and then invite everyone to MORE. Let us take back what it means to be an evangelist - just like the woman at the well - and start to share the Good News and in doing so, be transformed in Christ, and then go and transform the world.