...Jesus is reading in his hometown synagogue and the people are initially pleased, just like we would be if Akyia or Sophia or Keely was reading scripture for us this morning. But then Jesus tells them that the scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing – basically he comes out as the Messiah! If Akyia or Sophia or Keely told us they were Jesus’ second coming, would we believe it? Would we say they’d gotten a little too big for their britches? (Do people say that anymore?)
Well, we’d be whispering to one another and saying, “but I remember when she got in trouble for…” or “I changed her diaper!” or other things because we know the stories we tell of Akyia or Sophia or Keely or anyone else in this room. We’re pretty sure we know who each other is. And it’s not on purpose, it’s just completely natural, that we get attached to the stories we tell about each other and we can absolutely get in the way of one another changing, transforming, coming to new life.
When Jesus speaks to his hometown in the synagogue, they can't accept his words because of the story they've told about who he is, and who the Messiah will be.
Have you seen the church musical Angels Aware? I was in it as a kid. Those musical songs are catchy, they’re still in my head. In one song the characters – angels – are hanging out in heaven talking about the Messiah who’s about to show up in the world, God about to become flesh in creation. One angel sings, “if it were up to me, I think that he should go, as some kind of great hero, someone everyone would know.”
Another angel counters, “if it were up to me, he would be a mighty king – then he would own everything…”
And another, “if it were up to me, he would be strong and tough, someone who could strut his stuff…”
And so forth. Well, we’ve heard the Christmas story more times that we can count. Jesus doesn’t show up a hero, king, or strutting his stuff, but a homeless baby in a manger, a refugee toddler fleeing tyranny, the kid of a carpenter and teenage mom.
The stories we tell about Jesus determine who we understand him to be, and since we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, the stories we tell about Jesus shape who we understand ourselves to be, as well.
Some Christians are still in denial, wanting what those angels sing in the silly musical – a strong Jesus who loves America and wants us to win in our wars, a kingly Jesus who wants us to be rich and enjoy fast cars and fancy vacations, a heroic Jesus who comes to our rescue to knock the bottle out of our hands, or help us put down the fudge, or walk us away from whatever addiction or danger we’re dealing with. You can find these stories of Jesus all over Lafayette this morning. What’s your favorite kind of story to tell about Jesus? Who does it invite you to be, as a follower of Jesus?
In our liberation theology we often tell a political story of Jesus. Some theologians say that his goal was to overthrow Roman oppression rather than start a new religion. The descendant of abused women would be a likely champion of the marginalized.
We tell the story of Jesus who befriends people society hates, Jesus who removes demons and disease, Jesus who kneels before his followers, Jesus who throws a dinner party for the last, the lost, the least.
Our stories shape us, shape everything about us and how we see the world.
We can only tell stories about the past, but we tell them with the perspective we hold in the present. We change our stories as we change, when we see different shades of them and ourselves.
We’re telling the story of Lafayette Church of the Brethren all the time, without even knowing it. These days we’re especially telling stories of loving like Jesus by serving others and witnessing for peace....