Abiding in Exile - The Stories That Shape Us 10/29/2020

Abiding in Exile - The Stories That Shape Us 10/29/2020

October 29, 2020

by Rev. Nan Smith

October 29, 2020

Scripture: Acts 2: 7-11 (NRSV)
“Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’” 

For a very long time, whenever I would move to a new community, I would move this old plastic Dayton’s bag that held the flower quilt blocks created by my Granny Fifield.  The blocks were beautiful, but had never been assembled into a quilt.  So, I had taken the bag thinking I would finish the quilt and then give it to my mother.  

Silly me, thinking that I who had pretty much failed 7th grade home economics, would ever be able to piece, assemble, and quilt this into something someone would cherish.  Luckily at the church I am currently serving, there is a group of quilters who took my plastic bag of quilt blocks and made them into something beautiful. 

I can still remember the day I gave that quilt to my mother.  She and I sat upon it and as my mother lovingly touched the different fabrics of the quilt, she shared stories from her childhood. You see the fabrics used in the quilt were fabric remnants of the clothes my Granny had made for her family.  Each petal of each flower came with a story; a memory.  It was a special time that we shared that afternoon.

The stories we carry shape us as a person and also as a people.  They serve to anchor us and keep us tethered when life feels out of control. They give us an identity and give substance to the way we are in the world. Within our many stories is a diverse collection of hopes and disappointments, successes and struggles, joys and griefs, celebrations and endings, and encouragement and discouragement.  These are memories to draw upon when life just happens.  

For the Israelites in exile – I would guess they gave thanks for the many stories of their Jewish tradition.  It was the stories – told by generation upon generation – that had shaped them, that told of their relationship with God, and that spoke of a God who had never abandoned them.  How important it must have been to remember collectively, as a people, these stories.  I would guess, they clung tightly to these memories when their world fell apart.

During my Intentional Interim Ministry training, one of the leaders shared how important it can be for a conflicted congregation to remember their stories -- their history of being the church.  The leader shared that for the congregation to remember was their way to acknowledge the pain, but to also remember the joys.  It was a way to honor who they had been and to dream the possibilities of who they could be. 

My granddaughter started kindergarten this fall.  When I shared that with a friend, her comment to me was, “Oh, she’s a COVID kindergartner.”  I hadn’t thought of it in that way, but of course she was right.  Like all of us, COVID will shape my granddaughter’s story. Her first experience of school will be that of wearing masks and practicing social distancing; it will be of teachers at a distance and a classroom with an undercurrent of tension.

COVID-19 has impacted all our lives.  Often, I hear a common lament lifted up about how drastically life has changed due to the pandemic.  There is that unspoken question that hangs in the air as to whether things will ever feel right again.  

It is certainly the lament of my congregation. It reflects the despair they are feeling.  In this season, I have found it to be important to remind them of their stories, their identity of being God’s people and followers of Christ.  Together, we are working to remember that even when things feel different, uncomfortable, and uncertain, we are still faithful people bound together through our love of God and love of neighbor. 
Like the Israelites in exile, this season is just another thread in the rich tapestry of life we are creating as followers of Jesus Christ.

Holy God,
Help us to remember, that we are your people connected as one.  Help us to remember, that even in these challenging times, we are loved by you and always held within your care.  Help us to remember, that you are our hope and promise, no matter how uncertain life feels.  We give you thanks.  In Christ, we pray.  Amen. 

   Subscribe to the ABIDING IN EXILE Newsletters.