My dad is still going through things that we brought back from cleaning out his house in Delhi NY last week. Dad is putting his house that he has owned for more than 50 years on the market and so we had gone there to clean it out. It was a week of deciding what to keep, what to throw away, what to try and give away. Dad, for right now, he put all his things he kept in his garage. I piled up all the things I brought home in the back room. For me, there are picture albums and baskets, some Hummels that my mom had collected over the years and loved. We brought back a dresser that was in my room growing up and are planning on putting it in Lydia’s room. There were some nice framed pictures of our kids that we brought back down that we have yet to hang up. If you’ve ever cleaned out a house that you grew up in then you’ll know about the stories that go along with the items you held on to. For me, it wasn’t the stuff itself that I wanted, but it was as if those things held stories that I was clinging to. I didn’t want all mom’s Hummel’s, but I can remember my sister and I putting our money together to buy my mom a Hummel for her birthday and how mom was so happy with her gift. I finger through the picture albums and what I see are stories. Family stories of good times spent together with family and cousins and friends. There were pictures of our summer adventures in Delhi when the kids were young and we were going to the creek, and making a water slide and camping in the back yard.
The stories that we have and hold on to are so important in our life for they shape our imaginations and our identity. Those stories remind us again and again of who we are and where we came from and the stories point us towards what we can be. We all need those family stories.
As Christians we also need Bible stories over time. In some way the Bible is a collection of stories, but it is also one story that continuously tells us about God and God’s love for us through time. It’s when we are able to make the stories of the Bible our stories then our perspective about life changes, our identity as a child of God becomes our defining character. The biblical stories begin to shape our faith, our values and our life. I think of Jesus welcoming Zacchaeus, the short fellow who was also a tax collector and despised by the rest of the community. Jesus welcomed him and chose to befriend him and in doing so changed Zacchaeus’ life. I can remember my first few days of college my freshman year and feeling like I didn’t fit in, wondering if I would make any friends. And then Mike, who was a sophomore reached out his hand in the TV room and invited me to go to dinner with him and a few others and everything changed. That biblical story makes me mindful that I need to keep my eyes open for those who are left out. I need to be looking for those who have been excluded and then I need to act in welcoming ways.
I’ve been thinking about stories that have shaped my life and after 28 years as your pastor many of you are a part of those stories. I’m thankful for that. I’m also wondering, what’s your story?