Posts Tagged story

Morning Worship: Jones Offers Five Pillars For Christian Practice

by MARY LEE TALBOT on JUNE 27, 2017  : The Chautauqua Daily

“In our challenge to recover and reinvent the human, in living with radical individuality and radical communion, we have to face anger and resentment as people reject the idea of shared humanity. That makes telling stories very important,” the Very Rev. Alan Jones said at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service. As Garrison Keillor said, “There are no answers, just stories.”

His sermon title was “Telling Stories: The Invention of God! And the Invention of Humanity!” The Scripture reading was John 3:1-8, the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.

Trying to live in the Spirit, to float where the Spirit wills is hard, Jones said, because we are stuck with ourselves. He reminded the congregation that the good news is “life’s not about you. There is another story going on — that God is madly in love with us.” That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it puts the pain in context.

Our identity politics means we have a small view of ourselves. Jones cited a book written in the 1920s whose author said Jesus was the greatest salesman, a business organizer who welded 12 inefficient men into an effective machine. But the author forgot that part of Jesus’ job description was “must get crucified.”

Are humans more than our desire for economic growth?

“What is our raison d’être? There is more to life than the promise of material wealth,” Jones said.  “Society is held together by force or moral order, by the police or respect and common law.”

That is why religion is important; it puts the sacred at the center of life.

“To say God is dead means we are dead and society has no center,” Jones said. “In the West we spend a long time looking at our mortality. We want a long, lively life and a quick painless death.”

The reality is that death is rarely quick or painless. Even though the average life span worldwide has increased from 32 years to 70 years in four generations, in the Western world, most people will endure a slow, progressive deterioration preceded by pointless treatment. By 2040, Jones said 40 percent of the population will die alone in nursing homes.

“Life is a school and Chautauqua is a school for training the inventive imagination,” he said. “The marks of educated people are large sympathies, intelligence and the magnificence of soul.”

He noted that of the Five Pillars of Islam, one is about belief and four are about the practice of the faith. The first, faith, is what Muslims believe: there is one God and Muhammad is his prophet. The other four are about practice, he said: prayer, charity, fasting or participating in Ramadan, and the Hajj to Mecca.

The weakness of Christian creeds is that they contain no practices, Jones said. He suggested five possible pillars for Christians. The first is telling the truth, about reality and about who we are. The second is courtesy, a way of speaking that recognizes that what we say and how we say it matters.

“We have to pluralize, apologize and ecologize how we talk to one another or we will die,” he said.

The third pillar is a sense of the sacred. Jones shared a story from an essay by Salman Rushdie, who grew up kissing the books or chapatis that he dropped as a way of apologizing for his clumsiness.

“The act was a reminder that there is food for the body and food for the soul,” he said.

The fourth pillar is the recognition that what we tell are stories, not objective facts.

“Storytelling binds people together,” Jones said. “The lesser truth of our ethnic identity gives way to knowing there is one human heart.”

The last pillar is to treat everyone as a neighbor.

“This is discipleship,” he said. “We have to travel light and be subversive to help our neighbor.”

Jones said many people have to cope with being “W.E.I.R.D.” — Western, educated, industrialized, rich and demonic.

“As this is the time for reinvention, we have a need for self-restraint and civil discourse,” he said. “Because many of us are W.E.I.R.D., we can render other people invisible.”

As a college chaplain said, hell is filling up a resume with wonderful accomplishments to justify your existence.

The world pays a heavy price for the absence of soul. Relief comes in knowing that there is another story, larger than our own drama, he said.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Jones said. “The way we are in the world can make a difference; we need to hold hands and reinvent the world together.”

The Rev. George Wirth presided. The Rev. Kent Groff, an ordained Presbyterian minister and the founder of Oasis Ministries in Pennsylvania, a writer and poet, conference speaker, and spiritual guide living in Denver, read the Scripture. Joseph Musser, piano, and George Wolfe, soprano saxophone, performed David Stern’s “The Inner Call” as the prelude. The Motet Choir sang “Set me as a seal upon your heart” by David N. Childs. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the choir. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund and the J. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy support this week’s services.


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Tell Your Story. Celebrate National Listening Day

November 25 better known as Black Friday is also National Listening Day. This is a day to tell and record family stories. This gives a great alternative to spending the day or wee small hours of the night in the mall. StoryCorps started the event which has been widely celebrated and appreciated.

I am regretful that when I had the opportunity I did not pay attention to all those family stories freely shared at reunions, funerals, and other get–togethers. The ones I do remember enrich my life.

My friend Bob is writing his memoir. He sometimes reads portions to Carol, Brandy and me. What a treat that has become as he shares details of his life with us. Remember you are not limited by who constitutes family. It can be a group of friends, a church group or a social group as well as actual family members.

Record the stories if possible. Use a voice recorder, a video recorder or pen and paper. We all remember stories. As you remember one bit of information, dozens more will rush in. I recently wrote my spiritual journey, Our Father: Discovering Family, which became a book. The problem quickly became what to leave out instead of what to include. I was overwhelmed by memories.

A very important point is that your story is your story. Your sister, brother, mother, father, aunt or cousin will remember it differently, but then it is their story not your story. Of course you can make factual corrections when necessary. The important thing is to tell the stories and record them. Stories make us who we are. They span generations.

This morning my son asked me, “When did I get my first Lionel Train and where did it come from?” Those questions sent me back down wonderful memory lanes. That train was more than forty-five years ago. Luckily I made voice recording of all those early Christmas mornings to send to the missionary grandparents who were in the Philippines at the time, but they were on a reel to reel tape recorder. I hope that recorder is still in the attic. That quest will bring more memories.

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You Have a Transforming Story to Tell – Morning Worship – July 24, 2015 Mary Lee Talbot


Chautauqua Daily

All week long, at the beginning of his sermon, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III has said, “Let the congregation say amen.” Each day, he repeated it three more times, always ending with, “Now let the church say amen like you mean it.” And he always asked the congregation to hold hands with the people across the aisle as he prayed for the Holy Spirit to anoint the assembly. Friday was no different as he brought his week of preaching to close with a sermon titled “I Have a Transforming Testimony” at 9:15 a.m. in the Amphitheater. His text was Psalm 37:23-28. “The [recent] shootings show us that we are living in an irrational world where even a Bible study is not safe,” he said. “We are in need of a great awakening, and if I had time I would share how the founders of Chautauqua started this place because they knew that people needed a wake-up call throughout their lives.” Reid reviewed the sermon series that he presented this week.

“Every one of you has a story,” he said. “Every one of you has a God-given destiny. As you live and walk the road of life, character is built. Your life has a story and if you listen to it, it will give you strength.” He quoted the dedication page of Marina Keegan’s book, The Opposite of Loneliness: “I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself.” This is what David in Psalm 37 was trying to tell us, he said. David looked at the irrationality of his life, his dysfunctional family, his power as king. “I encourage you to embrace the irrationality of life,” Reid said. “When you embrace it, like Jacob wrestling with the theophany, or as the old people said the angel, remember that the steps of a good person are ordered by the Lord. After all the hell of life, you are still standing. You are still alive even though you are aging. “You can strive for perfection as we Methodists do,” he continued. “Though you fail, the Lord will uphold you. We can look back at our lowest points and know that we are empowered because God held us in his hands.” When we engage irrationality, we are empowered. “I have been young, and now I am old, but I know that the righteous are not forsaken,” Reid said. “Keep on pushing; there is power in your story. ‘Blessed assurance Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.’ This is our story, praising our savior all the day long.”

“You have a testimony, and if you hold on, God will uphold you at the most difficult moment,” he continued. “We weep for a night, but joy comes in the morning. We are praising our savior all day long. ‘I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself.’ You have got a transforming testimony.”

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Why You Need to Listen to Others’ Perspectives –

Mitch Randall

Why You Need to Listen to Others' Perspectives | Mitch Randall, Judgment, Empathy, Listening

More than anything these days, we need more listening and understanding and less biased and unfiltered opinions, Randall writes. (Image courtesy of Ohmega1982/

Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my dad listened to talk radio on KRMG.

On occasion, when I was not staring out the window dreaming of hitting three home runs in a World Series game, I would tune into the talking voice blaring from the speakers of my dad’s 1966 Mustang.

There was one particular voice I enjoyed much more than others: Paul Harvey, who taught me every story had a backstory and a surprise, if only we were patient enough to listen for it.

He told of kings, presidents, authors, missionaries and many other famous people who had influenced the world.

As he closed each segment, he would end it with his signature catchphrase, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

One of my mentors, Roger Olson, professor of Christian theology and ethics at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary, wrote an interesting article recently about selective memory in religious history books.

He pointed out that many history books exclude “the rest of the story” when it comes to historical figures.

We baptize history in many cases, retelling it to suit our desired arguments. History, like life, is a messy endeavor doomed to be misjudged if not assessed from many different vantage points.

Even when it comes to life, we often forget there is a “rest of the story.” We like to jump to conclusions, render skewed judgments and voice opinions before truly knowing the full measure of a person or his or her story.

We have turned into a culture that does not take time to listen, ingest or walk around in someone else’s shoes.

We often jump ahead of ourselves to render the credibility of someone’s situation based upon our own preconceived ideas and limited knowledge about the circumstances.

The disciples asked Jesus one time, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

Their question reveals the cultural and religious bias the disciples possessed.

They believed the man’s predicament was brought about by his own personal sin or the sins of his parents.

Jesus tells them they misjudged the situation and the man. In other words, they did not know the rest of the story.

In a world where people have unique and personal narratives that demonstrate the worst and best of humanity, we would be wise to listen before we jump to conclusions.

We would do well to research and discover all perspectives before drawing conclusions based upon selective knowledge.

Or, as Harvey used to say, “Now that we know the rest of the story,” maybe we can be understanding and empathetic to others’ circumstances.

We will not always agree, but maybe we can speak with a little less venom. More than anything these days, we need more listening and understanding and less biased and unfiltered opinions.

Before we speak, before we judge, let’s make sure to get “the rest of the story.”

Mitch Randall is pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma. A version of this article first appeared on NorthHaven’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @rmitchrandall.

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