April 20, 2019
It’s the same old stories, year after year - the story of creation and of the faith of Abraham, the great exodus of Moses and the promise of the prophets that call us back to God. Every year we hear from Paul’s letter to the church of Rome telling us that in baptism we die with Christ. And, and of course, the story of the resurrection which is really more the story (at this point) of the missing body of Jesus; they were puzzled and amazed but they didn’t know what it all meant.
They didn’t change from last year; they have not changed for thousands of years. In fact, very little of what we do tonight has changed since last year – we light a fire and bless water and anoint with oil and share from Christ’s Table. So why do we take all this time tonight to proclaim and listen to all these stories again? Because they are the stories of our salvation history, sure, but more than that - they are stories that tell us who we are today.
Old classmates will get together and tell the same stories over and over; the same old legends are told at family gatherings. Over-the-hill athletes tell of the glory days and veterans gather to recall the war stories and fisherman talk of the one that got away. Lovers recall the day they met and friends remember the days long past. People gather to tell stories at the death bed of loved ones. These stories tell of our life history; they proclaim who we are and where we came from. But these stories we heard tonight are more than that - these stories are different. They tell us of past, for sure, but if we are listening closely, they also tell us where we are heading.
Our faith stories are told for the sake of Micheala who will be baptized tonight and begin her life as our sister in Christ; Katie and Rowena and Leah will complete their initiation into our Catholic family tonight and be one with us at the Atlar. Stories of faith are repeated for those who are here tonight struggling to understand who God is and how he might be working -or not working- in their lives, and for those for whom the burdens of life have long ago buried our hope. We tell the stories for the guests and the visitors who may have never heard them before and for those who have heard them countless times but still find them exploding with hope and wonder and promise for tomorrow.
Our stories of faith are more than reminiscent reminders of days past; they tell us who we being called to become, what we are being called to do. They rekindle hope and anticipate what this world cannot offer. So while these stories of salvation history may have been proclaimed for centuries, our faith story is still being written. The resurrection of Jesus may, indeed, be old news; but our need of hope in the resurrection is not. The question has long ceased to be whether or not Jesus has risen from the tomb; the question is whether WE are willing to come out of our tombs!
Will we so honor and share in God’s creation that God will look at what we have done and sing out again, “This is good!”? Abraham, having passed the test of faith, was given the reward of descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore. Can we imagine, can we predict what blessings might come our way if we are equally faithful? The Israelites began a whole new life of freedom when they passed through the waters of the Sea. What freedom and new life awaits us if we trust God as Moses did, and leave behind our old ways?
Voices of the prophets inspired and admonished generation upon generation. What renewal of justice and holiness are we being called to in our time? When articulating our faith seems so complex, will we find new images, new song, new art, new words to inspire others like Paul and the other believers did for the people of Rome? When others come to us with amazement and wonder of some discovery of life or heart or love or science or medicine, will we listen to their stories with the same wonder and awe and help them to discern the presence of the living Christ in that discovery? Will we, ourselves, go in search of the Divine, the Risen Christ in our darkest of moments or will we give up, thinking this all nonsense, as the apostles did at first?
The stories that lead to our salvation are not simply stories of times past; they are OUR stories of life and creation, wonder and awe, sin and freedom, wanderings and homecomings, deaths and resurrections that take place every day. These stories need to be spoken and heard, proclaimed and pondered, told and told again - just like we do tonight with word and song and fire and water and oil and bread and wine. Stories of faith that have withstood the most challenging of times and stories of faith that energize us like an infatuation. Stories that make us laugh (especially at ourselves) and stories that bring us to tears. Stories that tell of how we came to be and who we are called to be. Because this is not simply God’s story; is OUR story to tell.