Pentecost brought the good news of the transformative, enlivening Spirit that sweeps through our life, blowing us in ways surprising and uncomfortable. After worship, we came together and shared how we experience and give that life in community. How we live our belief that the essence of building community, of being in relationship with one another through the Spirit, requires that we do the work to which we are called with compassion, creating a space for all to share the radical welcome that we have received through Christ. We talked about new ways to demonstrate that welcome. New ways to tell an old story. New ways to tell the story we’ve been telling all our life as a congregation. Why do we seek to tell the story in new ways? Because there are still those who haven’t experienced the story of God’s love, grace, and justice.
Stories are wonderful things that can transcend time. Yet, sometimes beloved, old stories struggle to be understood in new contexts. The stories’ truths last forever, but we can stop hearing them. Shakespeare is considered by many to be one of the finest writers in the English language. He’s funny and serious; he speaks common wisdom and subverts cultural norms all at the same time. But, as much as I enjoy his plays, Shakespeare can be hard to read. There’s a reason there are innumerable footnotes telling 21st century readers exactly what particular words and phrases meant in the Elizabethan era; we just don’t speak like that anymore. The stories, however, remain beautiful, entertaining, and powerful. We still crave the stories, but we want to see ourselves in them, so language, costumes, settings are updated and the stories speak to new generations.
The stories of the Bible, particularly the teaching stories of Jesus, can struggle in the same way. They are amazing stories, but most of us don’t have much knowledge of sheep or denarii any longer. Jesus taught using examples familiar to the people who listened. The truths they contain end up distanced from our lives because they don’t speak directly into our context as they once did. This is not to say they are no longer true or important. Indeed, they may be more important than ever. But, our ways of hearing and telling them can be changed by our times, our context.
What was Jesus teaching in these stories? How do we see the same truth in our lives today? God is in and speaking through our everyday lives just as much as when Jesus was teaching throughout Galilee. Our joy is to delve deeply into these stories so that we can share them, live them, and be transformed by the truth of God’s love and grace that they tell.