February 23, 2011

the disarming power of a story

Social Justice.

General Board of Church and Society.

Social Principles.

In some circles... those are swear words.

To take a stand, to say that the Bible speaks to our world today, to speak truth to power is DANGEROUS.

But it is also what we are called to do.

I found out about the GBCS Young Clergy Capital Hill Leadership Forum through an email and my first thought was: SIGN ME UP!

You see, I read my bible and I come across those passages where we are supposed to welcome the stranger... and then we have anti-immigration laws being bandied about in our states.  How do I preach God's word in the midst of that?

I read my bible and I find this tension between life that doesn't completely count as life in the laws of Exodus 21 and the idea that God knows us even in our mother's wombs in Psalm 139.  How do I respond when our state legislature proposes changes to laws about abortion? How do I lead my congregation through a discussion where we can be open to God's instruction and aware of the reality that surrounds us?

Photo by: Wayne Rhodes. Full article here.

So... I saw this event as an opportunity to educate myself even more about how to navigate the Bible, the positions that we take as United Methodists, and the lived reality of my parishoners.

What I did not expect was to be surrounded for four days by stories. 

Day after day, presenter after presenter, we hear stories of call.  We heard stories of barriers broken down.  We heard stories of hope.  We heard stories of awareness and maturity.  We heard stories of belonging and stories of being on the outside.  We heard stories of mentors.  We heard stories of challenge.

Every single presenter told us where they were coming from.  They spoke out of their own faith experience.  They told us how they got to the place they are today. 

And then, and only then, and with very little time remaining, they talked a little bit about the issues.

For a day or two, I have to admit that I was frustrated by this.  I was wanting some meat... some practical tools... some things to take home and do.

But then I realized that was exactly what I had recieved.

I realized that the simple act of telling your story changes the conversation.  When you tell the story of your faith and invite the person sitting across from you to tell yours - you no longer can hurl labels and threats.  You can no longer question that persons faith or sanity or patriotism.  You have met them as a person and now you must treat them as a person. 

Any discussion of the issue starts from a completely different place.  It begins in a place of mutuality, of respect, of awareness that we are both children of God.

It starts in a place where we each have something to tell, we each have a way that this story has personally impacted our lives.  And so we move past the soundbytes and the bullet points to a place of real dialogue.

I came home from Washington, D.C. with the disarming power of a story.


  1. In the past few weeks I have come to realize more than ever the power of story to change and transform lives. The sharing of faith stories within a faith community builds up that community; this, I think, we have always known. But this past week our SPRC was interviewing a potential pastor candidate. My question to ask of her was, "What does it mean to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, in this day and age?" Of course, this is THE question for us today, and there has been a lot of discussion about what this statement means. But when this pastor candidate began telling stories of how specific lives have been transformed by the faith sharing stories of others, I realized that, yes, this is the way transformation occurs: In our sharing our stories with others and in our listening to others stories.
    Blessings to you for this poat.