Dear St. Luke’s Storytellers,
On Monday I got the chance to walk around the Martin Luther King Jr. historical sites in Atlanta with my family. The buildings and museums were not open due to COVID, but just walking the grounds of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the memorial site of Dr. and Mrs. King, and Dr. King’s home gave me great pause. I have been to these places before by myself many times, but this was the first time with all five of us, and the first time visiting on MLK Day. It was busy, but not crowded, and there were all kinds of people there from different races, ages, cultures, and family make-up.
Grace, who can make friends with anyone, introduced herself to an older gentleman who was a “host.” He handed her a copied picture of a civil rights march with Dr. King and pointed himself out as a young man. She listened and asked questions of history and emotion to this man who was so excited to have a young person willing to listen. He talked about his march with Dr. King across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and a march in Atlanta. She asked if he thought things were different today and he shared his feelings about how he believed young people were walking in his shoes and still trying to stand for a “more perfect union.”
I stood back and watched the interaction happen. I marveled at these two people, separated by multiple generations interacting with one another with mutual respect and admiration. I saw how excited this man was to share his story with a stranger. He just wanted to tell the history of the place and share real life experience with those who came to visit. I, frankly, was also impressed with my own 20-something year old kids who asked the questions and then stood to listen and take it all in. This is a generation too often complained about or dismissed in our culture today. As I looked around the park, I saw dozens of young people engaged in the same way. They were studying, asking questions, listening, and taking it all in, artists making music and creating art, talking to older generations and making space for the history on the walls to come to life through others.
This passing of stories from generation to generation was what I took from yesterday’s Inauguration. The entire day was storytelling of people around our country. I took to heart a theme of how our hope relies on our interdependence, which for me, culminated in the moment our first National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, recited her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.” As she spoke so beautifully of a vision of our call to be the light and love, she did so with a ring on her finger of a caged bird, a gift from Oprah. A gift to remind her of the legacy she carried from Maya Angelou, Poet Laureate before her. This legacy came forth in her words of vision and call to action for all of us. What we witnessed was at least three generations of women sharing stories and legacies come to life in a new story written as a 22-year-old’s witness to a nation.
The hope and vision of what happens next in the world doesn’t lie simply with those in power and influence in D.C., with big companies, or those with big desks. It lies in the ability of ordinary people like us being willing to tell how our story interacts with God’s vision, especially to other generations, and being willing to listen to the stories they share to shape us. LEARN, ENGAGE, LISTEN, and ECHO is an intentional decision to LIVE the Story of God in community with others. When we share our experience of this vision of the Kingdom of God, where we have seen it, been a part of it, we pass on the anticipation and vision of hope to another, and we never know how that person may take that story and allow it to become realized in ways we could have never foreseen. I believe, as naïve as you want to say it is, that this interdependence of living in the story is a tool God will use to change our nation faster and more efficiently than we realize.
This Sunday we will ENGAGE the story of Liberation, Formation, and Confederation themes found in books spanning Exodus through Judges. You can watch the teaching video from Wednesday night here in preparation. I invite you to read Joshua 24 for some background as we engage the CHOICES we have to LIVE God’s Story versus our own. Read Joshua’s call for the people of Israel to choose who they will serve and pray about the story your life is echoing. What choices are you making to ensure the story you echo is the story of God’s love?
Love, grace, and hope,