God’s Story and Our Stories: Susan Wise Bauer – This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on September 6, 2015. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Psalm 107.
Text: Psalm 107
INTRODUCTION: Our call to tell stories of God’s work in our lives
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south…. 43 Let the one who is wise heed these things, and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
I. WHAT STORIES ARE, AND WHAT THEY DO
A. What a story is
Hebrews 11:8-13 — “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
B. What a story does: Makes sense of what otherwise might be random events.
“The power of stories that they are telling us that life adds up somehow, that life itself is like a story.” —Frederick Buechner
C. Why we tell stories – humankind has always created, and craved, “an astonishing multitude of fictions on pages, on stages, and on screens—murder stories…war stories, conspiracy stories, true stories and false. We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” —From The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall
Day 1 Light ———————————— Lights (greater and lesser) Day 4
Day 2 Sky ————————————– Birds Day 5 Seas ————————————– Fish
Day 3 Dry Land ——————————– Land Animals Day 6 Human Beings
Day 7: REST
II. THE KINDS OF STORIES WE TELL ABOUT OURSELVES
A. The story of need: seeking, crying out, searching for the Lord, and both finding, and being found.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. 5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. 6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. 8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
B. The story of disobedience: setting yourself against God, suffering punishment, and then finding him and being delivered from sin.
10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, 11 because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labor; they stumbled, and there was no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. 15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 16 for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.
C. The story of foolishness: heedlessness that brings us to trouble, which then pushes us to cry out to God and find rescue.
17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. 22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.
D. The story of goodness: doing nothing in particular wrong, being responsible and hard working, but pushed by the pressures of life into a realization of the need for God.
23 Some went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. 24 They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep. 25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. 26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. 27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. 28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. 31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. 32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
E. The story of being born into blessing: only after a time realizing the need to know God in a new and different way.
33 He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, 34 and fruitful land into a salt waste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there. 35 He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; 36 there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. 37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; 38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish. 39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled by oppression, calamity and sorrow; 40 he who pours contempt on nobles made them wander in a trackless waste. 41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks.
III. WHY WE TELL THOSE STORIES TO EACH OTHER
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice. But God’s hand is in every translation and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall be open to one another.” —John Donne
- When we tell our stories, we identify ourselves and place ourselves in the community of the redeemed
- When we talk about our struggles, we assure each other that we are not alone.
- When we talk about God’s faithfulness, we remind each other that God is working in our lives.
“…it has been through the telling of faith stories that believers have been able to transmit the essence of their faith to subsequent generations of believers. The oral tradition of telling stories in ancient cultures has always been a way of sustaining faith during times of triumph and despair.” —Spiritual Narratives
THINKING ABOUT YOUR STORY OF FAITH
1. Do you identify with one of the stories above? Which one?
2. Do you find the classic “conversion story” helpful?
(I was lost; I was found, and now I see.)
3. Can you identify an experience which revealed to you something about God and something about yourself? Think about what led to this experience, and how you were different afterwards. How does this story continue to affect the way you think about God?
“A faith story portrays in narrative form how God or a biblical principle became real to you. It is a testimony about a specific time when something spiritual happened to you. It doesn’t tell someone how to know God, but it communicates that he is at work and making a meaningful difference in your life.” — Going Public With Your Faith
4. Can you identify one or more milestones in your life, and then describe it/them by bringing God into the story?
(One church hosted a month when members told stories about their lives, with one requirement:) “The only rule…was that God had to be part of the story. The result was a powerful experience for both speakers and listeners. The testifiers explicitly recognized God’s presence in stories they might previously have told otherwise. The listeners were challenged to think of their lives differently.” — Passing on the Faith
The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything: describes different paths of faith which will influence the way you tell your story…
- Path of Belief: those who have always believed in God and have never seriously doubted, but still go through a period of confusion and doubt before reaching mature faith.
- Path of Independence: belief in God, but a separation from organized religion
- Path of Disbelief: begins with the complete rejection of any concept of God
- Path of Return: childhood faith, drift away, and then begin to come back
- Path of Exploration: an interest in spiritual things, investigating all religions
- Path of Confusion: want to believe in God, but they are filled with questions and God is a mystery