Are you wondering what to offer the church next year? Of course, time and money are always welcome; they keep this boat afloat! But one thing we could really use more of is vulnerability. Because, as I said last week, whenever somebody makes themselves vulnerable, we grow in leaps and bounds. And one powerful way of sharing vulnerability is sharing our true stories.
- Remember J’s story, when a loving presence bathed the room not only in the story but when we heard her story together?
- Remember Z’s testimony, when we heard how painful it can be for a gay woman to be part of a non-affirming church?
- Remember D’s account of holding a funeral for a baby and having no words?
- Remember E’s witness to the power of prayer and medicine when she had been given only four weeks to live?
Remember … well, there are too many to list here. Again and again as a congregation, we have benefitted from the gift of someone’s story, the sort of story it takes courage to write and wholeheartedness to share. The late great Ursula le Guin wrote, “Whenever a text is spoken … and listened to, we become a community of present contemporaries, people breathing together …”: and I would take this further. For breath is air-in-motion, and air-in-motion is the literal translation of spirit. And so, I suggest, whenever we hear a bit more of your story and it rings deep and true, the spirit flows through us and we are knit together in love. When we hear your testimony, we not only glimpse your life being made whole; we also sense our lives being made just that little bit more whole, too: and it’s all because of the spirit-flow enabled by your willingness to be vulnerable. Your testimony heals us all.
Of course, there is a paradox. We love, even feast on, other people’s stories, but we can be reluctant to tell our own. We are afraid of feeling exposed; we are afraid of being known; we are afraid of being seen as weak, inadequate, sinful, hopeless, and every other accusatory word we throw at ourselves. In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown summarizes the crux of the problem: ‘Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me. I’m drawn to your vulnerability but repelled by mine.’ And she asks the question: ‘Can you value your own vulnerability as much as you value it in others?’ Can you love yourself as you love your neighbour and the gifts your neighbour brings?
I hope you can. On Sunday, we heard P’s interview, in which he talked about his work with victim-survivors. It followed the pattern of John’s testimony to Jesus, and it was a gift of vulnerability. Now I am asking each of you to consider giving the same gift, by writing a testimony, too, for use in the Lent book in 2021. That is, as in previous years, I would like to put together a book of 40 readings, one for each day of Lent, each bearing witness to Christ through a single life, each a chance to increase our faith and build up the church in love.
You can write it however you want, as long as it addresses the fundamental question of how God is at work in your life. But if you want a model to follow, reflect on the three questions P addressed on Sunday:
- What Scripture do you identify with? That is, what Scripture particularly shapes your life and work?
- As a witness to Christ, how does this play out in what you do? (Don’t just think about paid work. It might be paid work, but it might also be care of others, art, gardening, hospitality, volunteering, community organizing, justice work, prayer for the world, or one of many other expressions of love.)
- What are your limitations? Who or what are you not?
You’ve got the summer to think about and write your piece. Email me your story of no more than 1,000 words by the end of January; and I’ll collate them into a booklet for distribution by Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021. Any questions? Just ask.
Tools for the Journey
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