Sunday, January 24, 2010

Everyone Has a Story

Third Sunday after the Epiphany
January 24, 2010
Luke 4:16-30

When you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store you don’t know how the checkout person’s day is going. You don’t know if they’re excited about some great news or are in knots inside from a tragedy they have just experienced. When you exchange greetings with a co-worker or your neighbor you don’t know what’s going through their mind, if they are in the middle of a life changing period of their life or are questioning their own value and purpose.

Everyone has a story. Sometimes people let you into their story. A stranger may tell you more than you’d ever like to know about their most intimate details but usually it is those close to us who open up to us, who risk what you might think of them in telling you their story. Sometimes we’re afraid to let others in on our story. What will they think of me? Will they still have respect for me? Will they think less of me?

Our stories are all different. We’re at different stages of our lives. We’ve all come through different experiences. We think differently, we have different goals, different feelings, different things we’re struggling with. Some of us are fighting with depression, some go through life happy and optimistic. Some of us are confident in our beliefs, some are struggling with what is the truth and how one can know what the purpose of existence is. Some are just struggling to get through each day.

Everyone has a story. And that doesn’t mean just each one of us. It doesn’t only mean every person who has ever lived. Everyone has a story. God has a story. No one has ever seen God but if you had it would be as everyone you meet and everyone you know. He has a story. He knows what yours and mine is. You might be able to keep others from knowing your story, but not God. He knows everyone’s story.

And that might be unnerving. To not be able to keep your deepest thoughts and motives to yourself. To not be in control of your inner life. When God knows your story your story is no longer hidden. It is open to the deepest scrutiny.

But one of the things about God knowing your story is that He knows something about your story that you don’t. Or at least, you wouldn’t know it unless He has made you aware of it.

He has. He has made it known to you by telling you His story. Everyone has a story, including God. God makes His story known to you in His Son, Jesus Christ. It’s a story remarkably similar to yours and mine. It is the story of a man. The people who knew this man, who grew up with Him and had gotten to know Him well in the small town they lived in, all had stories too. Perhaps some of them had shared their stories over the years with Him. Their hopes. Their dreams. Their troubles. Their insecurities.

Jesus was now sharing His story with them. He had come back to His hometown. He had come back to make known to them how they were part of His story. It was a story they couldn’t believe, though. The story they had known so well, the Biblical narrative of God’s love for the people He created, of Him bringing salvation to them in the Messiah, of the eternal God helping them in their daily trials and fears, was being played out in their very midst.

This story you know so well, Jesus told them, the one of the Scriptures, of the one who would save God’s people from their sins and give them eternal life, is being told to you. This Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The one they had their eyes fixed on was the enfleshment of the eternal story of God; of His everlasting love for His people.

But wasn’t He just a carpenter? The son of Joseph? Wasn’t He the guy we went to school with and played on the playground with? We know God will save us. We know He’ll send the Savior. But why does Jesus, this guy who grew up in our hometown, think He’s the one?

Perhaps it’s difficult for us to appreciate what they were feeling and thinking. We know who Jesus is. He didn’t grow up with us. We didn’t see Him studying for that test as they did, measuring that piece of wood for a table, walking the streets of Nazareth as a young man. We know who He is and what He did to save the world. Ask any child in the Christian Church and they’ll tell you: He died on the cross.

But we can understand exactly where those people in Nazareth were coming from. Jesus does the same thing to us today. When a person is Baptized at this font, water poured on them and the words, “I Baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Jesus is present. He’s not just present, He’s Baptizing that person. He’s bringing that person new life. He is washing away all that person’s sins. He is making that person a child of His eternal Kingdom.

Now do we really believe that? Not all people do. Not even all Christians. It’s not a symbol of new life or simply a ritual. It’s Jesus Christ joining a person to Himself so that that person is now a new person. A person who stands in the presence of God without blemish, without sin, without guilt. That person’s story is never the same. Their story is now not simply one of the struggles and joys of life but of being at the center of God’s story. God not just helping that person out in their life but giving them new life. Granting them a place in His eternal Kingdom.

Sometimes you find out someone’s story and it’s hard to believe. You wonder how it could really be true. We can readily understand why the people in Jesus’ hometown were skeptical of Jesus. Our story is often one of skepticism as well. Living as a Christian but reverting to those ways of living that are not Christian, not pleasing to God. You know this is your story. You can’t hide it. You can keep the details of it safely inside your mind and heart from those who know you best but you can’t keep it from God. He knows your story.

But that’s precisely why He has brought you into His. You know His story in His Son. In the one who brings you into His story, into communion with Him in your participation in His Body and Blood in His Holy Meal.

If we had anything to do with it we could cut ourselves off from God’s story. If the people of Nazareth had been successful, God’s story would have ended at the cliff right there in that small town. But God brought about His story. It didn’t end at Calvary but it culminated there. That’s the focal point of your story and mine. It is the heart of everyone’s’ story because Jesus died there for everyone, desiring to bring everyone into His eternal story.

You’ll meet many of those people in your life. You won’t know their stories. You won’t know what they’re going through on that particular day. What hurts they have, what pressures they face, what hopes they have that are fading with each passing day. And yet, you do know their story. It’s yours. It’s the whole world’s. It’s God’s story. You can tell them about it. You can bring them into God’s story.

It’s the story that is unfolding in your life every day. God no longer entering His hometown but coming into your life. Wherever you live, whatever you do, whatever your story. He brings yours into His. You are at the center of His story. That’s how much He loves you. That’s why He keeps His story going, calling to your mind daily through His Word that you are Baptized, His child forever. Giving to you Jesus, the one who stood in a synagogue in Nazareth but now is present often at this altar in bread and wine. No longer suffering and dying on a cross but risen and glorified and guiding and guarding you in your every waking moment and when you’re sleeping. Bringing you through the times you don’t know how you’ll get through.

Stories traditionally end with the words “The End.” This one doesn’t because it has no end. It simply ends with “Amen.” It shall be so.


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