Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Story - God's and Our's

“Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another –showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes,
training us to live God’s way.”
--2 Timothy 3:16, 17, The Message

Sunday Reflections by Pastor Penny

Church Signs:
(under a huge snow pile) “Whoever’s praying for snow: Please Stop!”
“Google Doesn’t Have All the Answers”
“The Bible is For Everyone to Read: Tech Support Provided here 10:30 Sundays”

That’s us! We are Tech Support for the Bible. I’m so excited – one of my very favorite ways to know about Jesus’ love for us is to listen to the stories in the scriptures. Maybe you’re like me, I have old Bibles, new bibles, I’ve got one in French and a few in the most modern English; some are easier to understand than others.

The point of the gift of the Bible to each of us is to know and to understand the story, and to follow it to deeper life, more joyful and more hopeful, more the life God wants to give us. Which is why we are going to spend this year following "The Story," a chronological telling of a condensed version of the story of God and God’s people. We’ll go from Genesis through Revelation and there will be lots of Tech Support!

Maybe we think only Seminary grads really ‘get’ the story. But I found that even in Seminary there were lots of things I didn’t find out. I always seem to want to know the rest of the story, the footnotes, the Google answers – I call it the ‘behind the page’ details. I understand better now that the Bible is not about sifting through details or getting an A on a test. I see the Bible as God’s love letter to us – it sure sounds different when read that way!

Who’s story is it?
#1) God’s story – referred to in our book "The Story," as the “upper story.” This is the stream of action that helps us to understand how God loves us, who Jesus is, how The Holy Spirit helps and guides.
#2) It’s also our story, for each of us is in this adventure, and is called the “lower story.” This is where we find ourselves and others like us who struggle with anger, loneliness, and rejoice in surprise and grace.

One key to understanding is to know that this is a faith book – not science book, not history book, not cookbook. We look here for truth about God and about ourselves. The Bible describes itself as “God-breathed.” So we have in our hands just what we need to be helped in our lives. You might ask:
1) What about the parts I don’t understand? There are always those, just look for what The Spirit of God wants to show you, to point out, to have you see or remember.
2) What about the parts I don’t believe? Reading the Bible isn’t a loyalty test; it’s an invitation to possibility.
3) Aren’t I just going to find boring rules to ruin my fun? I’ve been really helped by coming
to understand that the boundaries God sets are to guide us into the best life.

Any conversation about faith comes down to the: So what? What do I do now? If the Bible is a guide for my life – how do I get guided? If it’s a hope for the journey, how do I see that hope and feel helped? There is one key ingredient that each of us need to bring to this journey for it to do much good. Time. In many ways, time is the element most precious in our lives.

And what does all this have to do with St. Paul UMC’s new congregation – our merged faith community? I see us as having a deep need for a huge dollop of “Hope-for-the-Merger” in our transition time. Here’s one of my struggles for hope.

As an Arizona girl, I’m used to seeing green year round. Those of you not native desert people don’t realize that if you live with a family of gardeners – my grandmother and my mother -- your world would always be green, front and back yards: 5 grapefruit trees, dozens of amazing Queen Elizabeth rose bushes, walls of flowering jasmine, ranunculus, pansies, Etc!

Imagine my challenge coming here, a new bride with the hope of her own garden. We came in June, and it did look very green. But there is that long, long time of white, frozen waiting. One of our neighbors, a Minnesota gardener, took me under her wing. Carol shared plants, showed me how to work the rich earth and was a great encourager in such a new, unknown place.

So now, after many years as a gardener in this solidly, stubbornly zone 4 MN, I still wonder if ‘it’ will work. With hope, I’ll go spend my gift card at Bachman’s and buy the generous amount of bulbs it will cover. I’ll get Eric to help dig the holes 12” deep. I’ll stir in Bone Meal, a generous Tablespoon per bulb, and then arrange all those unappealing looking bulbs; some you can’t even be sure you’ve got their heads up. Finally, I’ll dump all the dirt back in and water. And wait.

The hardest part of that wait is in the middle of the winter. I’ll look out my living room windows and give a long steady gaze out onto the –20 degrees. I’ll wonder that anything good could possibly happen. It seems impossible! In February, late February, I’ll go see if there is the smallest, tiniest, tip of green. Maybe it could be my favorite: Estella Rijnveld – a parrot tulip, fringed petals with wild red/pink splashed on white. They won’t bloom till May, there’s plenty of time to wait and trust.

So much of our lives are like this. We are in a waiting time.
We don’t see bloom right away.
We plant things that don’t look like they have much potential.
We don’t want to wait.
We wonder if the wait could possibly be worth it.

The Story is God’s and Our's, in it we can come to understand how we are loved and surrounded by God’s best intentions for us, as we are “trained to live God’s way.”

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