Preacher: Catherine Staziker, Cathedral Reader (2006-2010)
26 October 2008, 15:15 (Last Sunday after Trinity)
Isaiah 55: 1 – 11, Luke 4: 14 – 30
May the Words that we hear from God not return to Him empty but be successful in accomplishing that for which they were sent by him.
“Stories are the style and substance of life. They fashion and fill existence. From primeval times to end times, from youthful dramas to seasoned experiences, from resounding disclosures to whispered intimacies, the narrative mode of speech prevails.”i Myth, parable, epic, romance, confession, iography, poetry – all powerful means of telling stories.
Without stories we don’t really live and stories don’t really live without us. What would we do without stories in our daily lives; stories we share and discuss with our family, friends, colleagues. That we share at home, at work, at school, on the telephone, in letters. How quiet Monday mornings would be without stories. These stories bind us together. How quiet the Crypt would be after the morning Eucharist.
Alone a text is mute and ineffectual, like parched ground without rain. It is in speaking, reading and hearing that stories come alive. Story-telling is an act that unites the writer, the text, the reader and the listener in a collage of understanding.
And so, the Bible . . . . today is Bible Sunday . . . . . . . . . . . the Bible is a collection of books of stories. Myths, parables, epics, romances, confessions, biographies, etc “. . . .historical inaccuracies and outright contradictions, clumsy repetitions and outright collations.”ii Full of human fingerprints. But words are nonetheless inspired by God.
A young woman arrived at theological college. In her first lecture on Genesis, her professor introduced the 2 creation stories probably written by 4 individuals. Not the story she knew. Hearing this, she put her head in her hands and sobbed.
All of us who study the Bible and engage in biblical criticism run the risk of temporary disillusionment by what we might discover and our reaction to it. But it is a risk well worth taking – a risk which will yield fascinating and transforming riches, a risk which will undoubtedly deepen our faith, with the help of our God-given intellects, open minds and the power of the Holy Spirit.
We all read different things into words. The Bible speaks to each of us in a unique way, each time we read or hear it, depending on our experiences or where we’re at in our lives at the time. But that is the point! It’s part of the richness. The Bible is a living book, the living Word, which facilitates a real relationship with God, Jesus Christ, our neighbour and the world in which we live. The writer Richard Foster says When we come to the Bible, we come to be changed, not to amass information.
What the Bible is not, is a collection of stories about perfect men and women who loved and served God. It is real, worldly, messy, imperfect. It is full of ordinary and not so ordinary people, with characteristics we love and hate, admire and envy. It explores their relationship with God and their response to Him. In immersing ourselves fully and entering into the drama, we experience it first hand and live it.
It is our history. It is our story. In these stories we recognise ourselves and others - reticent Moses, trusting Abraham, treacherous Judas, persistent Paul.
The Bible tells us stories we need: stories we want to hear and stories we do not want to hear, stories which help us live, stories to help us die, and stories to help us believe we shall live again. Listening to these words, we are called into a relationship with each other and with the one who inspired them. Believing these words, we are changed. The living Words of God help to heal our hurts and wounds, soften our hearts, heal our vision and guide our feet. In the words of Psalm 119 and this afternoon’s anthem: “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet: and a light unto my paths”.
These Words feed and nourish us, as the rain does the earth. We are strengthened and transformed by these Words and the Holy Spirit, so that the seeds within us can germinate and grow and bear fruit.
By virtue of our Baptism, we are all called to be ministers of the word.
We are called to share in the mission of the Word that was with God, the Word that was God. The Word that became Flesh and dwelt among us.
We are called to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to recover sight to
the blind and to free the oppressed.
This is my story, This is your story, This is our story, This is our song: hosanna in the highest.
i Phillis Trible: Texts of Terror
ii Barbara Brown Taylor: The Preaching Life