Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rich Stories

I’ve had a morning rich with stories. It started out with worship in the Westminster chapel (I love this daily ritual that sets me up for the day!)

Janine, our worship leader, had us sit in a circle around a bare tree adorned with beautiful butterflies. I so appreciate it when people are creative with their worship space. It creates an immediate sense of intrigue and expectation. And then Janine spoke straight to my heart: “I’m going to read you a story this morning. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…..”

“Monkey Puzzle” by Julia Donaldson tells of a baby monkey looking for his lost mum. The butterfly offers to help him and takes him on all sorts of adventures where they find animals that meet his description of his mum, but aren’t his mum. Eventually in exasperation he says, when the butterfly shows him an elephant, “No, that’s not my mum! My mum looks like me.” “Why didn’t you tell me that” says the butterfly. “You see my children don’t look like me.”

An extract from Janine’s prayer: “Lord, forgive us for the times when we imagine you are like us and try to make you in our image. Forgive us when we use our caterpillar language to describe the multicoloured moods of your love and capture the iridescent beauty of your satin wing. Forgive us our caterpillar greed and our caterpillar speed and our ground bound caterpillar needs. By your love and grace, help us to lift our eyes to see with joy your touch and beauty and help our witness to be a more fitting preparation for our transformation into your glorious life.

Through Jesus Christ, your image and our model. Amen"

And from Meister Eckhart:

Apprehend God in all things
For God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God
And is a book about God
Every Creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature –
Even a caterpillar –
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.

Then I was apprehended in the corridor by 88 year old Stella, an ex student of Westminster College staying here to work on her memoirs. “I want to finish them before I die,” she announced.

Stella hadn’t used her computer for a year so couldn’t remember her password and wondered if I could help her. I followed her into her room and after a few variations on the password she thought it could be, we struck lucky. I asked Stella what she was writing about. For over an hour she told me of her childhood, her faith journey, her studies at the Missionary Medical College in London and years as a medical missionary in India. She told me of miracles and answered prayers. More than once she said “how can people say there’s no God when he’s so present?”

On leaving Stella’s company I felt a bit guilty at the amount of time I had spent listening to stories when I should be in the library “studying”. And then it struck me. What more powerful way is there to learn than from each other’s stories? What academic or theological tome can capture the heart of what Janine and Stella shared this morning? And how blessed am I to have this opportunity to stop and take the time to listen and reflect on our and God’s stories?

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful and meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” (source unkown).

And one for the road from Voltaire, French philosopher…..

"If God did not exist, he would have to be invented." But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it.”

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