July 3, 2021 From the Pastor — ORIGIN STORIES

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I trust this pondering finds you well.  I know many of you are preparing to celebrate the 4th of July with family and friends on Sunday.  I imagine your celebrations may have some additional vigor, enthusiasm, and gratitude seeing how such gatherings were not possible last year.  It is remarkable how different this year will be from last year.  At the same time, I invite us to remember that as we return to a sense of normalcy in our communities, there are many communities throughout the world that are still in the throes of this pandemic.  Let us remember to pray for those communities and do whatever we can to assist them or be an advocate for them, that they will be able to receive the same vaccines we have received as quickly as possible.

One of the things we do on the 4th of July is remember our nation’s founding.  We remember by telling or listening to stories.  This past week a Facebook friend wrote a post about origin stories.  He wrote, “Origin stories are important.  Behind the rhetoric that will inevitably fill our screens over the weekend with flags and fireworks competing for our attention with native voices and fresh readings of “What to a Slave is the 4th of July,” is a tension as old as America, who are we really?”

He went on to share that as a child he saw an enactment of what he was told was a Native American storytelling tradition.  As they sat in a circle, one storyteller would stand up and enact his tale.  When that storyteller was finished, another person could retell the story from an alternative, and even opposing perspective.  My friend remarked that even as a child he saw the process as incredibly wise.  He said the listeners had to practice discernment, detachment, and patience.

In reflecting on this practice my friend further wrote, “The rival storytelling is not a battle to be enjoined, but a set of stories to be considered. The white American origin story has lost its explanatory power, but that does not mean it has nothing to say. Rival stories speak to a more diverse population and are attuned to the desire for liberation recast. This does not make them infallible.”

My friend ended his post by inviting us to imagine sitting in a large circle and listening to the competing storytellers craft their origin stories.  He suggested that if as listeners we do our role well, we might be able to perceive and discover an origin story, a shared memory, that can lead us forward.  The thought of a shared memory leading a divided country forward was one of beauty that I liked so much I wanted to share that possibility with you.

His post also provided an intro to the idea of origin stories.  We have stories about ourselves and our families.  Churches, including Grace Baptist, have origin stories.  As Baptists, we have an origin story.  This Sunday, I will be inviting us to reflect on part of our origin story as Baptists.  Did you know that Baptists had a large role in establishing religious liberty, the separation of church and state, in our country?  This Sunday we will celebrate that origin story, consider what that story says to us today, and listen for God’s call to continue to advocate for religious liberty.

Happy 4th of July,

Pastor David

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