Sunday, May 13, 2018

What's Your Story - Acts 1

What’s Your Story
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
13 May 2018

A reflection based upon Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 • Psalm 1 • 1 John 5:9-13 • John 17:6-19

Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.  Amen.

On this seventh Sunday of Easter, Let us walk through a narrative in this week’s scripture.
We are going to talk about roots, eternal life, and what’s your story.

The Story of 12 (Roots and Foundation):

Our scriptures this week from Acts talks about the one Apostle that joins the group after a discussion and vote. The question can be raised of why the need to keep the number as 12.

There is a relationship of the 12 Apostles with the 12 tribes of Israel.
The Apostles keep the number 12 by selecting Matthias.
With that, we are also reminded of the importance of heritage
because our Church has roots in Jewish traditions and culture. 

Fundamentally, the reminder is not just of our roots,
but we are reminded not to forget the lessons and the celebrations of our heritage.
That is one reason we read the Old Testament section of the Bible.
That is not just a story about God
but about our humanity’s lessons, fallibility and celebrations. 

In those books, we faced many obstacles, threats, and destruction.
We were once objects of persecution, slavery and tyranny
– much like our neighbors are today.
We still make mistakes.
These roots humbly remind us of what impact that has,
and we should work to correct that in our society today.

We also celebrate the many achievements
because the Creator has been helping us to learn.
In those many books of the OT,
lives and stories were shared
- so that we don’t forget the lessons.
Let us pray not to forget those lessons today.

Story of Eternal Life (Future and Legacy):

Our epistle reading is a synopsis of what Easter season means,
specifically this “Eternal Life”. 
Well, what does “eternal life” mean?
Some may think it refers to the afterlife.
I honestly don’t know what happens on the other side of death
--  I have not been there,
and I prefer to take my time getting there.
I have images of Heaven.
Thus, Heaven may be waiting for us and for you,
but what really, can “eternal life” mean for us today.
What life do we make here?

We have our life (aka our story) that we share.

An important word of the epistle is “testimony.”
There are some interesting origins of the word testimony.
Yet, testimony is our witness,
and ultimately, we are telling our story.
Through our stories,
we have life and we reveal our connections,
our community, and our families.
For example, I can’t tell you about my life without my story
just as you cannot without your story.

If we are to be true in our testimony,
then we must not be afraid of the struggles and questions of our lives.
Those hard parts are just as important
because those reveal our humanity and lessons (just like our roots in the Old Testament)
that we have learned along the way.
That is part of the prayer of Psalm 1.

My dad served in Vietnam, and to his grave,
he would not tell us about many of those experiences.
I have to wonder What could have been learned from his struggle
and his questions in those stories.
Doing Stephen ministry or pastoral care,
When people tell me their story, even the hard parts,
We have a chance to heal.
Dad’s story lives on from what he did share, but
Perhaps, he may have learned more by talking about it,
and I certainly would have better understood the pain and life he witnessed.
(I wonder how many other vets are not able heal because they don’t share their story.)

That is part of our roots.
We live and breathe our experience of the Spirit, community, success and failure.
Together, we learn to have life and live life; not just as spoken or written words.
Through our witness, we are examples of that life
and what Easter means to us
even during dire times.

What are you doing today to let your story live or even live into your family?

Your Story (Wondering the Present):

When times feel dire, you may feel hurt, lonely or repressed.
Perhaps, you found joy in life only to see it taken.
Perhaps, the world seems to be full of people that don’t share your values (or experiences).
When you feel lost,
Take pause to remember your witness,
your story
and who you are.

When I am lost,
I question everything and sometimes,
my questions simply don’t make sense.
(I might go visit Mom and talk.)
By talking and telling the story,
things may start to make sense.
I find myself working out what I have done,
what I have been taught,
and what I could have done better. 
Somehow, a path unfolds before me
because I am reminded of how I came to be here today.
We can find ourselves in mediation, prayer and story.
Still it sucks to feel lost. Don’t be disappointed.

From Gospel John 17, we are reminded that Jesus and the Apostles lived in a time under vicious oppression and the Bible written when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.

Listen to these words: “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father protect them in your name.. so that they may be one as we are one…I have given them your word and the world has hated them...I am not asking you to take them out of the world , but I ask you to protect them.” One theologian uses the Gospel prayer to remind us that destruction happens and our values are in fact valuable.

There is real anguish and experience of loss, but still, we can witness the hope and reassurance of Jesus. All we have to do is remember what it felt like to watch the World Trade Center Towers burn and collapse. Whether physical destruction, getting old or injured, Jesus reminds us of our values and our roots-- That we are more than just symbols or our past. We came together as community.

A path is before us even when we feel alone or lost. 
Look up and see the light before you.

Tell your story.
Lift up the many experiences around you.
Then, You can reconnect.

We are in a world where we witness and we testify
to the grace of God and the Church’s mission.
Yes, I see a world all around me
that don’t share my sense of values, my sense of discipline or my experience.
That’s ok.
Jesus, in John’s Gospel, reminds us
that we don’t have to be the same.
Hopefully, we understand identity;
that is great because you realize who you are.

And, in Jesus’s prayer,
we are not here to dictate to others or to fix people.  Wouldn’t that be awesome to have a switch that we flip and suddenly everything is ok.
(I could lose 30 pounds a lot easier that way!)
We, first, have to take care of ourselves. 
We are commanded by Jesus to be examples of God’s love to each other and our families.
We share our story.
We listen to others tell their story.

We are here to share in the community precisely
because the community needs our story.
We share our experiences and witness.
Through our story and our example,
we show the value of a good path, including the broken parts.

Then together, we realize that community is belonging to each other
-- not just empty slogans and phrases. 
When we pray together,
we eat together,
we work together,
we sing together,
we fail together,
then we heal together.
We fill our community with our testimony in our unique ways
—we give life to our community and to us as ourselves.

When we embody the presence that heals and shares love,
that is how we have eternal life and legacy.
That is how we honor our roots.
That is how we live today and witness today.

That is our roots!
That is life lived!
That is our story!
That is the Gospel story!
And I am sticking to it!

Thanks Be to God.

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