Storytelling Week 2: It is Our Story

Act 16:25-40 CEV  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened.  (26)  Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail to its foundations. The doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.  (27)  When the jailer woke up and saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself.  (28)  But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! No one has escaped."  (29)  The jailer asked for a torch and went into the jail. He was shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas.  (30)  After he had led them out of the jail, he asked, "What must I do to be saved?"  (31)  They replied, "Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone who lives in your home."  (32)  Then Paul and Silas told him and everyone else in his house about the Lord.  (33)  While it was still night, the jailer took them to a place where he could wash their cuts and bruises. Then he and everyone in his home were baptized.  (34)  They were very glad that they had put their faith in God. After this, the jailer took Paul and Silas to his home and gave them something to eat.  

I could tell when I heard her voice on the phone, she was not happy.  “Pastor, I need to talk with you,” she exclaimed.  Jenny had begun coming to our new church start about a year after we had begun.  She had grown up Catholic but had not engaged God until recently as she and her daughter began coming.  At our new church, she wanted her daughter to learn about God but Jenny was on her own journey and had begun to ask questions about God.  We had given her daughter a Bible and they had begun reading it and had come to the story of Sodom and Gomorah.  That is when she called me.
“Ken, this is NOT a kid’s book!”  “How could God kill all those people?”  “Why would someone even write about this?”  How can I read this book to my daughter?” 

I’m not going to relay everything in our conversation as it was quite lengthy and it was a conversation that really taught me a valuable truth: our faith story does not happen in a vacuum.  Your story and my story of seeking God takes place in life, with people and in the midst of real life situation and sometimes, the real, messy, sometimes offensive and sometimes joyous, moments of life.  My life and my faith will forever be shaped and formed now by these past few weeks and these recent days of Heather’s cancer and the impact you, as a church community have had on me, on Heather and our family.  Our story as a family is now part of our story as God’s family here at Bethelview.  Our years of ministry together will be tied together because of this experience.

Christians, especially Methodist Christians, are a people of “One Book.”  That was a point that John Wesley made very clear.  Bethelview has been forever influenced by this truth.  How do I know?  For one thing, I’ve listened to many of you but I’ve also noticed something you may not have picked up on.  Each week, when you’ve come to worship, you have seen a picture of an open Bible.  You have a seen a Lamp on top of the Bible, reminding you that God’s Word is a Lamp to your feet and light on your path.  There is an open Bible with the greek letters Alpha and Omega, reminding you that Jesus is God’s Word, the beginning and the end.  And, those of you who have come back into the closet, the original pastor’s office, there is the Ten Commandments.

Some good, godly people wanted to be sure the Church here at Bethelview didn’t lose sight of what mattered.  They are still telling the story of God to us today.  It isn’t their story.  It isn’t your story,  It isn’t my story.  It is our story.

As we read the story of Acts 16 (see above), we look at the impact of choices and connections, we see action and reaction.  Rarely do we ever consider earthquakes as good things.  In these circumstances, the jailer clearly is distraught by the events that transpire. What happens if Paul and Silas sneak out when the doors open?  It appears likely the jailer would have died.  His family would be left without a father and husband.  It may have meant Paul and Silas (and others) would have become fugitives.  It might also have meant the jailer’s family would come to blame their loss on Christians.

But those things DON’T happen.  The story of Paul and Silas becomes the story of the jailer.  The story of the jailer becomes the story of jailer’s family.  I think we get the miracles mixed up.  It isn’t about the earthquake and that Paul and Silas get out but that the jailer meets Jesus and so does the whole family.  What do you think Paul and Silas were most excited about?!?!?  We need to remember that this book is full of our story. This is the story of the ways God intervened and changed the storyline. That story line is one that God is STILL changing.

There are three things that I take away from this passage, three things I'd hope you'd remember:

1. The worst of circumstances can be used by God. Prison and earthquakes? This is why we need the blues and why I asked Brandon Reeves to come be part of this service and singing the blues.

2. Our actions can transform reactions. Be attentive to others. Always be looking out for others. People are always surprised when other’s serve. Ya'll know I wear a nametag just about everywhere and I've been an unpaid employee at places like Lowes, Home Depot, Dollar Tree and Target, to name a few. People are always surprised to learn later that I was willing to help them even though I didn't work there.

3.     Simple storytelling saves souls.  Verse 31 is all we need.  Simple question and a simple answer.  When life is most real, no one is concerned about what “-ism” you are in or what “-ology” you subscribe to.  “Keep it simple storyteller!”

Today, one family is responding to God's Story and becoming part of Our Story here at Bethelview UMC. Not only are we excited their joining, we're also celebrating the baptism of a father and son together...

What Next?

Week 2
Pray for an opportunity to share God’s story with them. Maybe it is something in your family, something at church, or something at work, where God was evident.


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