This past weekend at Mt. Carmel was a really good one. Following the typical pastor’s line—public decisions were made (4 professions of faith), attendance was good, offerings were up…. For all that I am most thankful and it makes Mondays a whole lot better! I hate to admit it, but I’ll soon forget the “nickels and noses” account. One Sunday follows another and we pastors tend to go up and down from one week to the next. But, now and then, a Sunday will rise above the others. Here is what I will remember about this one.
On Saturday morning, an Ordination Council convened at church to hear and affirm one from among us. The purpose of this gathering of men and women deacons was to consider Todd as a candidate for deacon ministry. The high point was hearing Todd’s story—nothing spectacular, but extraordinarily authentic. It was his story—one of faith.
To hear Todd recount events of his life as opportunities to respond to God was compelling. He tracked for us his journey from out west to here in Cross Plains, from his Catholic upbringing to his place now in a Baptist church. His candor and his energy were inspiring.
I, for one, think we need more opportunities like that—to tell and listen to one another’s stories. In fact, every small group should build into their life together time to share and reflect—listening for not only what has happened, but also what it meant for that person, what it has meant since, and what it means now in the present context. Church, of all places, should be the place where we build in time to hear one another’s story.
This is what I appreciated so much about Saturday morning. Here was one who recognized in his past how God had come in and out of his life. There were opportunities missed and other moments when potential was realized. There is no doubt that Todd knelt before God and the church Sunday morning because of lessons learned along his life journey. Now his story and ours are intertwined.
Sundays are at their best, are most memorable, when our stories and the Biblical stories intertwine. Yesterday’s sermon focused on Jesus’ parable of the laborers in the vineyard—one of his “hard teachings,” so to speak. Listen to an email I received on Monday: “I wanted you to know that yesterday I finally understood the parable. I have tried for years. When you said “thank goodness God is not fair” it clicked. I have always viewed myself as the one who works all day, not the one who shows up in the 11th hour. Looking at it from the outside I show up a lot at the 11th hour.”
When we tell our stories, alongside God’s story, lives are transformed.