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.

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

Tags: , , ,

Tell and Retell Family Stories

At the funeral of my friend there were wonderful stories from her children,  grandchildren and former students. She was a faithful member of the congregation for over fifty years. The atmosphere moved from sorrow to one of thanksgiving. I was left with a great question. Why do we wait for funerals to share these wonderful stories?

My dad was a great story teller. I relished the saga he told about his asking my grandfather for my mother’s hand in marriage. “Mr. Gossett (my grandfather) was a big man. He was already dressed for bed. Here was this big man wearing a white night shirt and he was barefoot; As tears rolled down his cheeks he said, ‘Well Carnell, if you don’t know how to treat her,  you know where you got her.'”

When I was in the third grade my family traveled to Spartanburg for an appointment with my eye specialist. My sister and I were walking ahead of my parents. I heard mother say to dad, “I am not sure I want Mitch to get new glasses. He thinks I am so pretty.”

For a short time when my sister and I were in middle school we boarded my grandparents’ cow. She was a gentle animal, but my sister, Jean, was afraid of her. One day Jean was missing for an hour or two. We finally found her cowering in the barn with the cow standing in front of the door. Jean was afraid to come out.

These are family stories. There is nothing unusual here. They are stories that bind our family together and we need to remember them and share them. The National Day of Listening , the day after Thanksgiving, was created for this reason. by StoryCorps in 2008. We are encouraged to tell and share family stories.

The family had gathered for our annual Christmas dinner. My wife had knocked herself out getting the house ready and preparing a scrumptious meal including the family’s favorite –her macaroni and cheese. She prepared everything except the ham. Our friend Roger gave me directions on how to boil a ham the way his family in New Mexico had always done. His ham was always so delicious that I wanted to try it. I announced my plan to the family and was met with unanimous apprehension. Undaunted, I confidently executed my plan.  All afternoon I carefully watched over my masterpiece and was eager to prove all of them wrong.

My ham was a disaster. It was ugly on the platter, the consistency stringy and the taste did remotely remind you of ham, but only remotely.  Although my offering turned out to be a culinary disappointment, the merriment that filled the room was spontaneous. There was no end to the light hearted puns and the suggestions as to what might render the ham into something eatable. Even my grandson’s girlfriend got in on the act. My son told me later that he had not seen my sister laugh so hard or enjoy anything so much in years. Everyone let me know that this was one time when father definitely did not know best.  I made certain that the ham was soon gone, but the story of this Christmas dinner and dad’s great fiasco will warm our hearts for years to come. There is nothing like warm hearted laughter to cheer the soul.

 

Your family also has a storehouse of marvelous stories. All it takes is for someone to start the ball rolling. One story quickly follows another. Be intentional about it. Set up a voice or video recorder. If necessary ask a few leading questions. Where did mom and dad meet? What is your favorite childhood memory. Where did our grandparents live before they were married? What was your first memory of Christmas? You will think of others related to your family history.

If your family holds family reunions, send out a request for members to come prepared to share a family story.  Another idea is to interview an older person who is reluctant to stand up and talk. What is true for families is also true for other groups. A favorite activity at our Sunday school class’ annual Christmas dinner is the sharing of childhood Christmas memories. These stories break down barriers and turn members into friends.

Stories bind people together. They capture our shared experiences. You will be amazed at how one memory will trigger another one.

Tags: , , ,