“In the sharing of stories, I have seen the lies of the enemy slowly burned away. The rejection of the world’s proclamation that we are broken and wretched, that our trauma is our burden to carry, that oppression is just the way it’s always been and always will be. Instead, I have heard the proclamation of promise that God’s mercy and compassion have enveloped us, have given us boundaries, have pierced our hearts to open us up to love.” 
-One Coin Found, by Emmy Kegler, p. 167

On Sunday, after worship, we gathered to discuss the summer RLC read: One Coin Found. We had to keep pulling up chairs to the table as people joined in– about a quarter of the adults in worship stayed for the conversation.

In case you haven’t read it yet, here’s the SparkNotes version: Emmy is a queer woman who has spent her life loving God and wrestling with God’s people who have sometimes celebrated her gifts and other times left her crying in the bathroom. Despite the ways Scripture has been used to wound so many, in it Emmy found the loving God who doesn’t stop looking for us.

You can see why so many people wanted to stay for conversation, why so many others have emailed or written or called to talk with me about the content. That hour of discussion on Sunday may be the best thing to happen at RLC all month. Why do I say that?

Here’s what I witnessed:

  • People who don’t regularly spend time together sitting down around a table to talk and listen
  • The look of relief at not-being-the-only-one on one parent’s face when another parent in the room said they had a queer child
  • Tears in the eyes of more than one participant as they shared their own stories of exclusion or belonging
  • Curiosity
  • The immense amount of courage needed to admit that someone changed their mind by listening to someone else’s perspective
  • Compassion 
  • The people of God listening to and loving one another in a way that is only possible by the Holy Spirit

You see, Emmy has a point: it is in the sharing of stories–our stories and God’s stories— that shame and lies melt away and are replaced by hope and truth. Sunday’s conversation gave us an opportunity to do that sharing. We heard Emmy’s story. We heard from each other. We heard that God is a persistent God who doesn’t stop sweeping and searching until each and every one of us is found.

One of the things about sharing stories is that there are so many of them. Even if we only heard the stories of Scripture, we could get overwhelmed in Hagar’s desperation, Jacob’s scheming, Abraham’s inconsistent faithfulness, Esther’s courage, Ruth’s persistence, Rahab’s discernment, Elijah’s drama, and all the rest. And then we add our own stories: our desperation, scheming, inconsistent faithfulness, courage, persistence, discernment, drama, and all the rest. 

But then, maybe, just maybe, our calling is to bear witness to all those stories. To get close enough to both the figures of our faith and the ordinary other people who fill our days. To hear their stories and share our own and see that God has been present in all of them. To let the stories of our Scripture and the stories of our lives pierce through our cynicism, our fear, our prejudices– so that we’re open to the love of God that reaches farther than we imagine.

I hope that you’ll read the book. If you’re around next Sunday, I hope you’ll join us for another hour of conversation. Above all, I hope that hearing the story of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for you will set you free to share your own stories of death and new life.