Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Luke 4:14-21
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71-1-6, and Luke 4:21-30
Isaiah 6:1-13 and Luke 5:1-11
Upon Further Reflection
Dedicated to the twelve men and women formally seeking a new faith home in Bethel
Storytelling is an essential human activity – it’s why we binge on Netflix and why there will always be libraries full of books we can’t help but devour. It’s why healthy churches are defined as places where regular people share their faith through story. It’s why healing for people who have endured trauma, like war or violence or separations means storytelling – going back and interpreting the events of our lives to master our narratives and make meaning from what would otherwise feel random, meaningless, and chaotic. Story reorients us, reorders us. I can’t say this enough. Change, transformation, empathy, surviving, arising, gathering – it all happens through story and for us as Christians, through one very precious story.
The stories we have heard recently in worship, diverse as they are, share a common image: public interpretation of the scripture. Reading our common stories then making sense of them in terms of the people gathered. The Word is filtered through their needs. Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to read scripture to a crowd as the inauguration to his journey, a journey to rebuild a people . In another verse, we have the story of the priest Ezra, returned from Babylonian exile, reading God’s Word within the gates of Jerusalem: "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Torah. Again, this was a moment of inauguration to begin rebuilding a temple and a people. With this as well, we heard Jeremiah’s commission. God said: I have put my words in your mouth. Jesus commandeers a boat from which to preach and tell stories to eager followers. And this coming Sunday, he will offer his Sermon on the Plain interpreting the heart of biblical teaching. It is all storytelling and story-making. It will remind the people of the story of Moses and the commandments.
These are moments when the people are revitalized, grounded, and reborn. As my mother put it in conversation last week, we are reconstituted in the Word. These are stories of where we have come from, where we are going, and the promises that will get us there. And we are called to respond by telling our own stories: love, loss, failure, triumph, doubt, hope, and resilience. Through it all, the Word shines through our words, binding us as One in Christ.