Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Telling Stories, Making Room - A Sermon for Easter 5A

Here is the sermon I preached at Church of Our Saviour on Sunday, or at least, the text I brought with me
Do you remember your favorite story from childhood? I had a million favorite books and stories – but I especially remember a particular book of fairy tales that I loved. It had beautiful pictures, and a particular story called where the starring young woman was good and beautiful… and smart. My mom liked to read me that story, because it taught some things that she believed in and wanted to share with her daughters– that little girls don’t need to wait for Prince Charming to come along and save them, that women can be pretty and smart and capable, all at the same time, and that even though doing the kind and right thing might not have immediate rewards, it does work out eventually.

Most of the stories we repeat to our children have some sort of lesson to them – children learn through stories! And, this is what the today’s lesson from Deuteronomy is about. This weekend, Jewish people all over the country are celebrating the Passover, and parents will tell their children exactly what we heard in today’s lesson. They will learn how the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and how God led them out through the Red Sea into freedom. It is more than a story about what to do – it is the kind of story that tells children who they are. For thousands of years, reciting the story of the Exodus and sharing the Seder meal shapes the identity of Jewish children, who live in the midst of people very different from themselves. From generation to generation, the Passover teaches children that they are part of a story larger than themselves, that God has an active role in their history – and can have an active role in their own lives.

And isn’t that exactly what we will be doing today, in this place? Every week we gather to share a special meal and to re-tell the story of God acting in Jesus Christ and acting in our own lives. And this week, we will be intentional about sharing this story with our children by celebrating Solemn Communion – they will share in this special meal, and we will have a chance to teach what this is all about: That, here in God’s house, Jesus has prepared a place for them, and it is at this table, and as part of this community.
We hope that they will learn that the story of God’s grace is not just something we talk about, but it is the story of who they are: beloved children of God. We want the story of Jesus – the one that makes us children of God – to make a difference to our own children, so that they know that they can be someone different from what this world they grow up in wants them to be. We may even dare to hope that our children may learn that if Jesus has made room for them at this table, then God might have prepared a place for them in the world –not a place determined by materialism or competition or violence, but a place carved out by faith and love. We hope this story will shape their hearts and their vision so that they will see their place in the world as God created it – a place where grace and love can grow, where faith, community and service matter, where love is the greatest of all things.

Of course, the storyteller is never the same after sharing a story – telling the story is as formational as hearing it. This story is not just for the kids who will join us today – it is for us too, no matter what our age. If we teach our children that God makes room for them at the table,
then we must make room for them – and in the process, discover that there is more room at the table than we ever could have imagined.

In helping our children see themselves the way God sees them – as precious and beloved – we might remember how to see ourselves that way too. In our assurances that God has made a place for children in the world – a place that is not determined by the pressures and pulls of our culture – we just might find that God has prepared a place for each one of us, at this table and in the world. God’s story really does shape who we are, and the story is for all of us. And, thankfully, God will happily tell the story as often as we want to hear it, or until all of us children know that we are loved and that we have place in this house.

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