This past Sunday, we celebrated All Saints’ Sunday, the day on which we remember those who have gone on before us who reflected back a little bit of the image of God to us and helped us understand what it meant to be a Christian.
For me, one of those people is my grandfather, Earl. He was the silent servant when I was growing up. He was always willing to fill in at church as an usher. When the church fair booth opened every fall, you’d find him at the fryer in charge of serving up our famous onion rings. He owned a TV and VCR repair shop my whole life and was always fixing things for people, usually at a much lower price than they’d get elsewhere. And if their TV couldn’t be fixed, he often had a used one he’s sell them for less than the usual repair cost they were expecting. He truly had a heart to serve.
Those who know me in person, know that I’m a big fan of Dr Pepper. I’m one of those people who will drink it instead of a morning coffee. Papa knew this, and I would often come home from school to a grocery bag with a 3-liter bottle of Dr Pepper hanging on the front door knob that he dropped off on his way home from the store. He taught me how to serve others with even the smallest actions, brightening their day or even going unnoticed altogether.
Whether or not it was his intention, he showed me a bit of Jesus, the Human One whose life and sacrifice we remember at the communion table, this week glowing with the two dozen candles lit by the people of Sacred Place to honor the saints in their lives.
As a church planted out of the closure of an historic church, we have a lot of saints in our history who made it possible for us to create Sacred Place. The saints who founded the San Dimas Union Church and paid off the building’s debt over the years. The saints who had the vision to create that first place where all people were welcomed regardless of their background. The saints who greeted people at the door, making a name tag for them so that they felt like they were part of the family.
It makes me sad that the people who join us in creating Sacred Place won’t get to know those saints from our history. Yet, they’ll get to experience them as we live out being people of justice, inclusion, and family. They’ll live on as we share stories of how they made us who we are. The wisdom they imparted is reflected in our actions, how we reflect the image of God to others.
One of my professors in seminary taught us that our job as leaders in the church is to be weavers of narrative. We must take our own stories, and add them to the stories of our people, weaving into them The Story forming a new story filled with a future hope. A hope for a world that might be. It’s not just a story our origin, though that’s profoundly important, it’s not just about why we exist, but about who helped us become who we are. Telling the story of me, with the bigger story of us, with the even bigger story of the Gospel, brings hope.
As a way of responding to this celebration of the saints, I invited those who were gathered to share a story of the saints in their lives. Post a picture with a story of how that person showed you Jesus, how that person reflected the image of God to you. Telling these stories begins to paint a picture of who we are. This small action shares the blessing we have received with others. Isn’t that what we’re called to do? Bless others out of the abundance of blessing in our own lives?
Sharing those stories must really become second-nature. When I was in film school, we always talked about having an elevator pitch of your great idea for a film or tv script. In much the same way, we have to be able to share why we are creating Sacred Places for those who need them. Sure this sounds a lot like traditional evangelism, sharing the story of your salvation. But the why shouldn’t be about a salvific transaction to avoid eternal damnation, but instead a story of a world that could be. A world where there’s a seat for everyone at the table.
Our stories matter. For stories inspire, and they paint a picture through words of the world we long to see. A world we believe can be. I truly believe that we are created to tell stories, I mean look at the way we consume the narratives of film and television. They resonate with us because in them we find ourselves. We see the human experience in all of its messiness and allows us to imagine the change for which we hope. Stories allow us to believe that our deepest hopes can come true. For that reason, we have to get better at telling our own stories. Not just because they are rooted in reality, but because they can inspire others to join us. To walk with us as we work to make our dreams a reality.
I pray that you might be brave. That you might find a way to share your story with someone else. It doesn’t have to be on a public forum like social media. It can just be with a friend or even a stranger. It’s only through sharing our stories that we can bring light to the darkness of our world. A world where people are told their stories don’t matter. Every story matters.
I would love to hear your story, whether in person, through an email or video, or however you want to share it. I invite you to be part of the Sacred Place story, creating a just world where ALL are included in the family of God. When you can, help others find their voices. Whatever story you have to tell, it’s a good one, one that will bless others. Go, tell it. For this is your Sacred Place.