God's Word: Sharing The Story - Romans 10:13-17
Daytime television is flooded with them. Judge Judy, America’s Court, Paternity Court, Maury, Jerry Springer, The People’s Court, Judge Mathis, Steve Harvey, Dr. Phil…the list could go on and on and on. They are all people who want someone, actually seemingly want everyone with a television, to hear their story…and evidently, with the number of those shows on the air, people like to hear their stories. Is it any wonder that social networks like Facebook are a success? It allows anyone to share their story, from what they are thinking at a given moment to pictures of themselves with their friends all crowded in front of a bathroom mirror to the results of a survey suggesting what city they ought to be living in and they share that part of their story with anyone willing to be their friend…or the friend of their friends…or anyone. People like to share their stories.
We may not take to the airwaves or cyberspace, but most of us like to share our stories. I’ve known a couple of folks here recently who have taken on the amazing project of writing out their life stories in order to share them with their children and other family members. However, even more basic than that is the time we sit down with someone else and share a story. Maybe it happens at a reunion when we gather with those we have not seen in years and we exchange our stories about all that has happened to us since the last time we were all together. Maybe it happens in the beauty shop where we tell all the other regulars of the things that we have seen, done, or heard since the previous week. Maybe it happens over a fellowship meal at church. Maybe it happens at the dinner table, though this happens less and less these days, where family members share the story of what they have done during the day.
The sharing of stories has always been a part of human culture. There are so many things we would not know if someone had not shared their story. In fact, were it not for God’s people sharing their stories, we would not have our Scriptures…for this is a wonderful compilation of the people of God sharing their stories…the stories of how they have experienced and understood God and their desire to share it with anyone who would hear and listen. By word of mouth and then later through writing, God’s people passed down the story of God’s role in their lives for future generations to embrace, to guide their lives and encourage their faithfulness to God.
Consider the words of the Psalmist:
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. [i]
We’ve been examining this Storybook for the last two weeks as we have explored God’s Word. We began by understanding God’s Word to be the lamp to our feet and the light to our path, embracing the ability of God’s Word to shine light into the dark rooms and paths in our lives and show us the way to go. Last week we examined the importance of not only hearing God’s Word, but responding to it, embracing the Word of God and obeying it…not to earn God’s favor…not simply because God told us to…but because God’s Word is shared with us that we might find and experience salvation…not only from our sins and death, but also from the ways that troubles and evil assail us from every side…God’s Word becomes the solid ground on which we stand and cannot be shaken.
It is through all of this, allowing God’s Word to light our way and building our lives of the foundation of His Word, that God’s Story actually becomes part of our story. God’s Word comes into our lives and begins to shape who we are and how we live. It should become the lens through which we see the rest of the world and how we experience life day to day. It should become inseparably intertwined with our day to day lives and stories we have to tell.
In 99.99% of the television shows that I mentioned at the outset of this message, people are airing their problems…the bad stories, the bad news of their lives. In the social networks of the computing age, you get about a 50/50 split. All too often in the beauty shop conversations (and let me tell you it is not only the women, these conversations take place in the barbershops too), if the stories move past the local gossip where we are trying to tell someone else’s’ story from a very negative point of view, we begin grumbling about how the government is messing up our story or the results from our latest round of medical tests, and it doesn’t look good. What we are all too often missing it is to tell the Gospel story, the Good News…a positive story, our story.
I am not talking about walking into your family or class reunions or the beauty or barber shops or any other place and going up to folks you know or complete strangers and posing the question, “If today were your last day on earth, do you know where you would end up?” or even starting up a conversation with, “Do you know Jesus?” or “Have you found Jesus?” (like Jesus is lost somewhere). Too many people on both sides of that conversation feel intimidated or put off by those questions—the recipient feeling like they are being confronted by some holier-than-thou-bible-thumper and many of us saying, “I just don’t know how to have that conversation. I don’t know enough about the Bible to share it.” Well, if we don’t know enough about the Bible to share it, we have just made the argument for why folks should be coming to Sunday School and Bible Studies—so that we can know more to be able to share it. However, that is not what I am talking about either.
The stories we begin sharing start with our own Gospel…our own Good News. This is not making up stories about Jesus, it is about sharing with others, the same way that Mathew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, and the others did, our own experience with God, our own experience with Jesus. We begin by sharing with others how our story and The Story, God’s Story, have become one. We are to share what a difference God has made in our lives…that’s our Gospel…our Good News. As we share our story and The Story with others, it begins to make a difference in their lives.
Why is this important? Our reading this morning has told us. Hear it again:
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” ‘But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. [ii]
We share our story and The Story that those around us might hear. We share our story and The Story that all of those around us might find the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ in their lives. We share our story and The Story that others might come to know the same amazing presence of a Savior in their lives. We share our story and The Story that others might have a light for their paths and a solid foundation on which to build.
With all this talk about story, I realize that I never finished telling my story from the first week. Remember, I had been asked by a couple in the church I was serving to go and visit a middle school softball coach that had been arrested for having ongoing sexual relations with one of his players. I shared with you how that same coach had helped the church just months earlier by serving as a chaperon on a fellowship trip with our youth, a trip that included the young girl. I shared with you how much I did not want to visit this guy. I shared with you how in response to prayer for God to show me what to do, for God to light my path, my devotional reading was from Matthew 25 with Jesus’s words, “I was in prison and you visited me.” What did I do? Well, this time I let what I heard in God’s Word move my feet. I responded to God’s answer, and I went to the jail. Nervous and praying to myself the whole time, I waited for them to bring him to the visiting area. What I encountered was not a monster, but a broken man. A man who now realized what wrong he had done and the lives he had ruined. A man who did not understand how he had come to do those things. A man who felt so lost that he wanted to simply end his own life—not to escape punishment but because that is what he felt he deserved.
What would I do next? I could encourage those feelings, helping make him feel more and more filthy and worthless…hoping that he would take his own life. Yet that is not what happened. God, in an amazing way, granted me His eyes…the eyes to see this man as He did…eyes filled with sorrow for a man so lost that he could not find reason to live…eyes to see a man that God had sent His Son to die for…eyes to see a man that needed to know the salvation that was available to him.
So I began to share my story and The Story…of how we all struggle with temptation…not all the same temptation, but temptation nevertheless, to ignore what’s right and go after what’s wrong, because it feels good at the moment. I shared with him my reluctance to even come and why, but how God’s Word gave me the guidance to be there. I shared with him how the love and grace of God can overcome any trouble and forgive any sin…of God’s love for him, even in the midst of what he had done. I was given the gift of being able to watch as this man began to see the light and the lifeline that God was willing to offer, and was able to pray with him as he surrendered his life to Christ anew.
Why share the story? It is so all may hear and believe. It is because someone shared the story with us and it made a difference in our lives. It is because as we share our story and The Story that those around us come to know the love of God through Christ in their lives and begin living their own stories in the light of that love, with the story of their lives built on a foundation that cannot be shaken. It is so others may have a story of their own to share with those around them. It is so everyone might come to call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.