“God’s reality is like a man who’s in someone else’s field and stumbles on a treasure. So he buries it, sells all of his possessions and buys the field for himself. Or this — God’s reality is also like a ruthless merchant, looking for prized pearls. But chancing on what must be the most amazing of all pearls, he sells his inventory to have that one pearl.” (Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew)
As I write this afternoon, Linda and I are in Petoskey, Northern Michigan where the temps have been in the upper 50s and the fall colors are beginning to turn the green landscape of birches, maples, and oak trees into a painter’s palette of burnt orange, deep red, and shimmering yellows. Over the weekend, I stumbled on to a Book Festival in a nearby town featuring authors and illustrators of every genre from all over the US. So I sat in on one session of Middle-Grade authors. And I noticed a common theme — first drafts. No one’s first submissions were ever accepted. Every story is a work in progress. And that theme was echoed in their personal lives- and their families, careers, and even their various countries. What defines life is a diverse story, not a whitewashed, default story of comfort and familiarity. Living, like writing, is often discomforting, and even strange — which is what makes it interesting. A character, like the story lived out in our own lives, is a work in progress. That’s what makes them so relatable.
I also noticed a connection to our current sermon series — How to Be Human. When it comes to being human, one of the most distinguishing characteristics differentiating us from other animals is our proclivity for stories – stories to entertain us, stories to inspire us, the stories we conspire and confabulate to depict our lives in certain ways (Some true, others, not so much — even if we aren’t aware of them). We are storytelling animals. Our lives are driven by stories- spoken and unspoken. And these stories draw us toward some way of living, some pattern for our lives, like a moth to a flame — for good and for ill. To be human is to live by some story we always think and tell about our self — I am a thinker, a caregiver, a promoter and advocate for others. I am a sacrificial lamb, an overachiever, a success. I am a victim. I am a warrior.
So one question we might ask is, what are the stories we are telling about ourselves – the stories that quietly, insistently guide our thinking and acting? And a second might be, are these stories true or simply the emotionally familiar, convenient, socially acceptable, or shamefully driven, “first drafts” long overdue for some “work in progress?” What is the story that God, our deepest, interconnected self, the ground of our being, invites in us to be told?
The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus as telling several parables that depict the nature of God’s kin-dom, here and now as a present possibility. They tell a curious, often discomforting, story about the nature of God at the heart of reality. But in the two stories above, it’s not what is found that may be the question for our stories here, but what is given up. Is the story we are living out worth the price we are paying for it? Is it the truest essence of who we are, our sacred story, in this Kin-dom of God?
I am excited to be back with you in eleven:eleven this Sunday, October 6, as I welcome and interview Sonja Bomhoff. A long-time visitor, along with her family, in eleven:eleven, and a Life Coach certified in Brene Brown’s work with vulnerability and leadership, Sonja and I will talk about specific ideas for “rumbling” with our stories. We’ll ferret out some concrete steps in order to find more authentic stories to connect us deeply with our ongoing selves and the world around us. The band will join along in the telling with songs from Dave Matthews, Charles Gaby, and Ruthie Foster.
What’s the truest, deepest treasure at the heart of your story seeking to connect with life? This is what it means to be human. Join us this Sunday!
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven