Sermon by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo
What a great story. The only miracle that appears in all four gospels, I’d be surprised if it hasn’t made its way into nearly every children’s Bible ever published and every Jesus movie ever made, too. A huge crowd of people, all of them hungry after a long day out in the middle of the wilderness, without a grocery store or a fast food place in sight. The disciples gently remind Jesus he needs to wrap up the day’s teaching and healing while there’s still time to get everyone home for dinner. Jesus disagrees, throwing them a curveball with the words: “You give them something to eat.”
Now I don’t care how much catering experience you may have, five thousand people is a lot of mouths to feed. The disciples only have five loaves of bread and two fish, “unless,” they say, “we are to go and buy food for all these people.” (Luke 9:13) But of course they only say this for rhetorical effect; everyone knows they can’t accomplish such a feat.
Not to worry, though. Jesus has a plan. “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And everyone sits down. Then Jesus takes the loaves and fish, looks up to heaven, blesses and breaks them, and gives them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And suddenly it turns out there is plenty of food to feed everyone present, with plenty of leftovers too – twelve baskets of bread pieces in all.
I’ve heard it said that the miracle that day wasn’t that Jesus created ample bread and fish for thousands from such a small amount, but that once someone shared his food with the group, others too were inspired to share. In John’s account of this same miracle, it’s a young boy who shares those first loaves and fish with the disciples. (John 6: 9) The argument is that his example inspired others to pull out the food they actually had brought along with them as well. In other words, it only appeared that there was a food crisis. Once everyone shared, it turned out there was already more than enough to go around.
Though I have to say, if supernatural goings-on in the gospels make us nervous, we’ve got bigger issues to contend with than Jesus creating food for a multitude where there was no food before. By Luke chapter 9, Jesus has been busily casting out demons and healing all sorts of physical infirmities, not to mention that he entered the scene back in Luke 1 and 2 as the Son of God himself, born to a virgin and announced by angels. It seems to me that reading through the gospel of Luke requires a degree of openness to the miraculous, a willingness at least to consider the angel’s promise to Mary back in chapter 1 that “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
But whatever it is that actually happened out there among the five thousand in the wilderness that evening, it’s the dialogue in the middle of the story that really caught my attention this week. First the disciples say to Jesus: “Send the crowd away” to get provisions “for we are here in a deserted place.” (Luke 9:12) Jesus responds, “You give them something to eat.” (9:13) The disciples, no doubt looking like deer caught in the headlights at this point, recover from their shock to the point where they can fill Jesus in on the inventory: “We have no more than five loaves and two fish.” It’s not enough, Jesus. There’s no way it’s enough.
But notice the simplicity of what Jesus says next: “Make them sit down in groups.” Ah, now that we can do. And carrying baskets, and passing out pieces of bread and fish, and cleaning up after the meal, that we can do, too. Thanks, Jesus. We’re on it.
“You give them something to eat,” says Jesus to the group of disciples gathered here this morning, too. And there’s so much we simply can’t do about hunger in our world. We pray for God to intervene because it’s all so overwhelming. 5,000 mouths to feed? Try 842 million hungry people around the globe right now, according to the World Food Program. It’s easy to be paralyzed into inaction. Jesus, every morsel of food in our kitchens, every penny in each of our pockets, every dollar in each of our bank accounts simply isn’t enough to solve a crisis of this magnitude! What do you mean, “you give them something to eat?”
How do you imagine Jesus would reply?
Something from nothing? That’s God’s department. Scarcity to abundance? God’s got that part covered, too. The fact is, “there is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.” Where I need your help is with distribution. Receiving God’s abundance and sharing it with others – that’s your job. So everyone pick up a basket, and get to work…
“You give them something to eat.” The Emergency Feeding Program of King County has their work cut out for them, serving an average of 1800 clients each month. Meanwhile, many of our neighbors around Magnolia and Queen Anne have more than enough money and food to spare, and are happy to add a few additional cans and boxes of food to their weekly grocery run. So what began with a small group of church volunteers down at our local QFC turned, with God’s help, into a whole van full of food headed over to the food bank. And remember that this same story was unfolding at grocery stories all over the city yesterday, with plenty of other groups participating in the Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry as well.
“You give them something to eat.” We also cannot feed every homeless person in Seattle, but this congregation certainly knows how to put on a feast once a month for the homeless guests at Operation Nightwatch.
“You give them something to eat.” So we host benefit concerts for the Ballard Food Bank, and designate offerings from our ecumenical worship services to the women and children of Mary’s Place, and many of us contribute food and funds, clothing and coats, time and talent to other organizations working to address issues like hunger and homelessness as well.
It may have been hard for those first disciples to see that God had provided ample resources for all five thousand people gathered before them, but surely we can notice the abundance all around us today. Our church is situated in an affluent neighborhood in a prosperous city in one of the richest countries in the world. We don’t actually need to work a miracle here; miracles are God’s department. We do, however, need to shift our thinking from a worldview of scarcity – “we have no more than five loaves and two fish” – to a worldview of abundance – “thank you, God, for these five loaves and two fish;” we can’t wait to see what wonders you can work with them!
Alyce McKenzie puts it this way: “Jesus' words "You give them something to eat," are “a daily dare. He's saying "I dare you to take me at my word. And see what happens.” Today’s gospel story may begin with an awful lot of hungry people sitting around in the wilderness. But remember that “the scene [ends] with the disciples moving through the crowds, lugging twelve baskets full of leftovers. That's the mental image we ought to keep before us whenever we stand in the shoes of the disciples in this passage—which is [of course] every day.”
Something from nothing? That’s God’s department. Scarcity into abundance? God’s got that covered too.
By feeding five thousand people that day in the wilderness, Jesus shows us he can be grocery supplier, chef, and dinner host all rolled into one. We disciples are in a sense merely the wait staff, asked to deliver food, from the One who is busily providing it all the time, to the hungry mouths and bellies that need it.
“You give them something to eat.”
We don’t need to solve the problem of hungry multitudes on our own. But if each one of us will pick up a basket and lend Jesus a hand, trusting in God’s abundance instead of worrying so much about the scarcity of our resources, we might just get to witness a miracle.
 World Food Programme, http://www.wfp.org/hunger/faqs.
 David Lose, “Pentecost 8A: The Real Miracles of the Story” on davidlose.net, July 28, 2014.
 Alyce McKenzie, “You Want Us to Do What?” in Edgy Exegesis www.patheos.com
Sermon by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo
In last Sunday’s gospel text, from Luke 5, Jesus had dinner at the home of Levi the tax collector. The Pharisees were horrified. Tax collectors were despised by the Jews in those days, since they were agents of the oppressive Roman government, often known to be lining their pockets at the expense of their own people. How dare Jesus eat at the home of a traitorous tax collector?
Interestingly, here in today’s text, Jesus’ dinner companions are some of the Pharisees themselves. According to Fred Craddock, “that a Pharisee asked Jesus to dinner should be met with neither suspicion or surprise: not suspicion, because there is no evidence a trap was being set; nor surprise, because Jesus had much in common with these lovers of the law of Moses and leaders of the synagogue. … For Jesus to eat with tax collectors and sinners and refuse table fellowship with Pharisees would have made him … guilty of reverse prejudice.” Jesus, it turns out, is as comfortable dining with the religious leaders themselves as he is with those at whose dinner tables the religious leaders would never be seen.
At any rate, it is here at the home of Simon the Pharisee that a most spectacular disruption takes place during dinnertime. Into a situation of what we might imagine to be educated conversation about important matters of Jewish law and leadership, a situation of polite discussion and carefully observed rules of etiquette, in comes this “sinful woman.” And not only does she burst onto the scene, she immediately starts weeping at Jesus’ feet, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, and anointing his feet with perfume. Imagine the reactions on the faces of our host and his other guests at this point. Talk about a dinner party not exactly going according to plan!
Now it’s important that we proceed carefully here, so that we can understand which aspects of this story are in fact scandalous, and which are not. First, Jeannine Brown cautions us against rushing to specify the nature of this woman’s sins. “In a Jewish context, the descriptor ‘sinner’ would indicate someone who was not faithful to God’s law -- a transgressor of the Torah. Luke does not specify the sin of … other sinners with whom Jesus eats. Yet in this passage of the woman who anoints Jesus, … commentators [often] assume that she is a prostitute, as if the only sin a Jewish woman of the first century could commit would be sexual sin. Given that Luke can specify that particular sin (see 15:30), his less explicit reference here to this woman “who was a sinner” should not be pressed further but should be heard in concert with the other references to sinners in Luke as recipients of Jesus’ kingdom ministry.” Maybe she is a prostitute, and maybe she isn’t. At the very least, that’s not the point of this story.
Secondly, when we think of sitting at our own dinner tables, the only way someone could reach our feet would be to crawl around under the table. But that wouldn’t have been the case here, where the custom was to recline at a low table, with one’s legs extended. So the scandal is not that everyone else is sitting in chairs and she’s down on the floor.
That said, there is plenty to be shocked about in the woman’s behavior. The bit about weeping at his feet, washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair is as shocking as it sounds. Shockingly dramatic. Shockingly intimate. Shockingly inappropriate for a dinner party. And notice the imperfect verbs – she keeps on doing these things. It’s not that she comes in, does this for a few seconds, and leaves. She’s apparently still going as Jesus and his host then have this conversation about her.
Simon feels Jesus ought to have known this woman had a reputation as a sinner (of whatever kind). If Jesus really were the prophet he claims to be, shouldn’t he know have known enough to send her away? Simon wonders this to himself, rather than saying it aloud, making it all the more interesting that Jesus responds to Simon’s unspoken question. I wonder if Simon catches the irony – if Jesus knows what he (Simon) is thinking, doesn’t that offer exactly the kind of proof Simon was looking for, that Jesus is a prophet?
And of course the further twist is that Jesus not only defends the woman’s audacious actions, but he puts down his host in the process.
Fred Craddock observes: “The reader is inclined to see in the story one sharp contrast, that which is so evident between Simon and Jesus. Here are two religious leaders suddenly in the presence of a sinful woman. One has an understanding of righteousness that causes him to distance himself from her; the other understands righteousness to mean moving toward her with forgiveness and a blessing of peace. However, … the contrast Luke has in mind is [actually] between Simon and the woman in response to Jesus…The irony here is that even though Jesus is a guest in Simon’s home, it is a sinner who extends hospitality.” You gave me no water to wash my feet, Simon, and no kiss of welcome. And here she is doing all of this and far more.
One aspect of this story that has always intrigued me is how unsurprised Jesus appears to be, at this woman’s behavior. Everyone around him is shocked, while he seems to take it all in stride. Simple omniscience as the Son of God would cover it I suppose. I mean, if he’s divine, he knows what’s coming. But I wonder if there’s more to it than that. In verse 47 Jesus seems to refer to the forgiveness of the woman’s sins in the past tense: “Her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” In other words, there seems to be prequel to this story. At some point, in an episode Luke doesn’t record for us, Jesus and this woman have met. He already knows her story, and he has already forgiven her. Admittedly, the fact that she is known as a sinner by Simon and his dinner guests reminds us that our sins can have serious and lasting consequences. Here she is, apparently forgiven and restored by Jesus, and her story continues to follow her. Still, she bursts into the dinner party here in this extravagant show of love and devotion because of the difference Jesus has made in her life. She knows she has been given a tremendous, undeserved gift and she responds with a lavish, extravagant show of gratitude in return.
There are any number of ways to read ourselves into this story as individuals. For instance, let any who feel they haven’t much need for forgiveness from Jesus hear that “the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” Let any who are quick to judge others by their pasts remember that there could be more to their stories with Jesus than we know. Let any who feel their own sins are too many or too great to forgive hear a reminder of God’s amazing grace and mercy. Let any whose hearts are overflowing with gratitude for God’s grace hear an invitation to give back to God lavishly, extravagantly in return.
There can be a message here for church communities too. After all, “the price of [this] woman’s way of life in the city has been removal from the very institutions that carried the resources to restore her... What she needs is a community of forgiven and forgiving sinners.” Craddock challenges us to see that this “story screams the need for a church, [and] not just any church, but one that says, ‘You are welcome here.’”
Let’s be that kind of people. Let’s be that kind of church. People who know no gift is too good for the One who has given us everything. A church that makes clear everyone is welcome at the dinner table, when Jesus is our guest.
 Fred B. Craddock, Luke: Interpretation Commentary, p. 104.
 Jeannine K. Brown, Commentary on Luke 7:36-50 from www.workingpreacher.org, June 16, 2013.
 Craddock, 105-106.
 Craddock, 106.
Sermon by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo
In the midst of all of the other exciting things going on at church this month, you may have heard some mention of “Table Talk,” an intergenerational communion class to which you are all most welcome over the next two weeks, at 9:15 on Sunday mornings. We’re going to have a great time instructing our kids in the meaning of the Lord’s Supper (that’s the “table” in question), but more than that– we’re also going to enjoy an opportunity with church friends of all ages to talk about the significance of this important sacrament. (Sacrament simply meaning a tangible action, with concrete, visible elements, that speaks to us of God; an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.)
All of this has had me gravitating in a more general way this fall to gospel texts about “Table Talk,” that is, stories in which Jesus shares meals, or has conversations about food. We actually find these kinds of stories scattered throughout the four gospels, but our focus this fall will be the gospel of Luke, as we begin a new sermon series entitled “Dinner with Jesus.”
Admittedly such a series has comic potential. When our Music Director, John Obourn, heard what I was planning, he tossed out suggestions like “Dinner with Jesus: Quick Meals for 12” and “Dinner with Jesus: the Mustard Seed Recipes.” (If I thought I had any future as a stand up comic, then trust me, John, I’d have been off and running with those suggestions!)
But it truly has been fascinating to read through Luke again with this focus on shared meals. We learn an awful lot about Jesus from looking closely at where, and with whom, he eats as he makes his way from town to town. Teaching and healing were, in a sense, his day job. But even as the Son of God, Jesus’ humanity also required rest and nutrition. So where did he kick back, and with whom did he choose to dine?
Even the actual menu choices can sometimes be instructive. Take our second text for this morning, for instance. Grains of wheat plucked on the Sabbath may not fall into the same category as a great banquet at a wealthy tax collector’s home. But what was at stake there, in that bit of Sabbath snacking? Harvesting grain was forbidden on the Sabbath in Jewish law (though there is some debate over whether plucking grain by hand counts; Exodus and Deuteronomy are divided on this issue, cf. Ex 34:21 but Deut 23:25). Still, itinerant preachers in the first century, moving constantly from place to place, probably did have a bit of trouble finding food on occasion. There was a strong culture of hospitality – we see this in many other stories about Jesus and his disciples being offered meals in people’s homes – but every now and then, surely, it was hard to catch a bite to eat while moving from point A to point B. So the disciples grab a small snack on the road, as they walk through this grain field, … and then are immediately called on it. In Luke chapter 6, Jesus is still in the early stages of his ministry, but we see how closely he and his followers are already being watched here. “Hey, don’t you know that’s forbidden on the Sabbath?”
Notice the story Jesus invokes to excuse their grazing on that wheat: a story of King David who, in a time of emergency, ate bread that was set aside in the tabernacle, and reserved only for the priests. Desperate times call for desperate measures, Jesus seems to say, and not only does the need to address human hunger trump certain rules, but “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” As if to say, those rules you want us to follow? I’m the one who made them in the first place, and I know their real purpose is to help, not to harm. What seems at first to be a story about rule breaking in a wheat field by some hungry followers of Jesus, turns into a clear assertion of Jesus’ authority and identity, as the Son of God.
Meanwhile, returning to our first reading for today, we find a kind of “Table Talk” in Luke chapter 5 that will become quite familiar as we make our way through this gospel. Jesus, you see, doesn’t seem to care who he eats dinner with! Or, to be more accurate, he seems to show a decided preference for dining with those that one really oughtn’t, you know, to be giving the time of day, as a member of polite society. In this particular case dinner is at the home of his newest disciple, Levi the tax collector. Bad enough that Levi invites Jesus home – tax collectors being absolutely despised in that day for their cooperation with an oppressive Roman government – but then Levi goes and makes it a giant office party. Tax collectors everywhere! And the Pharisees are simply disgusted.
I think it’s important in these kinds of stories to give the Pharisees some credit. They were fine, upstanding citizens, many of them. God-fearing, law-abiding Jewish leaders. They knew right from wrong, and sincerely tried to do what was right, and here went Jesus completely upending their expectations of what a respected rabbi was supposed to be doing. He mixed with the wrong set of people and didn’t seem to care nearly enough about the rules around which they had oriented their entire lives. No wonder they were upset.
But as Jesus points out, he was primarily in the business of healing the sick, so he needed to focus on those who didn’t have their lives together. “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31) Elsewhere in the gospels we will find Jesus calling out the Pharisees for their sins too, but here I think he’s simply saying: “it’s great that you guys are doing so well. Let me concentrate on those who aren’t, the ones who can really use some extra attention and help.”
The final element of “Table Talk” in today’s gospel texts has to do with the question of when to fast, and when to eat. John’s disciples, the Pharisees point out, seem to be all about fasting and praying, but every time they see Jesus and his crowd, they’re eating and drinking! Where is their sense of propriety?
Jesus answers with this analogy of the bridegroom and the wedding guests. The time to fast isn’t when you’re in the middle of a wedding celebration. However important fasting may be to you as a spiritual discipline, Jesus seems to say, do it some other time. When the bridegroom is with you, you are in a season of celebration! That season won’t last forever, Jesus explains; someday the bridegroom will be taken away from you. But while he’s here – absolutely, it’s time to eat and drink!
It actually reminds me of the text from Ecclesiastes we read at Albert and Nikole’s wedding here yesterday. “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecc 3:4) While Jesus was with his disciples, it was time for laughter and food and fellowship. As we read through the gospels with an eye on Jesus at dinnertime, it’s clear he knew how to enjoy a good meal, and that he encouraged his followers to do likewise.
So what are our take-away’s from “Dinner with Jesus” today? (Other than the fact that we are well primeWell, we have learned a few important things:
First, that Jesus will prioritize people over propriety, regularly choosing to dine with those who may be shunned by others.
Secondly, that Jesus will prioritize people over the strict interpretation of Sabbath rules, addressing physical needs like hunger and healing without concern for what day of the week those needs may arise.
And finally, that Jesus’ followers should in turn prioritize their time with him, eating and drinking with the bridegroom while he is with them, saving their fasting for another day.
Not everyone would get it, obviously, and that will become another major element of the plot as the gospel of Luke unfolds. But Jesus’ disciples were at least beginning to catch on, simply by following him around and listening to his “table talk.” Jesus reached out to everyone, they quickly learned. And he cared about their most basic needs.
Sadly, he wouldn’t always be physically present to dine with them. But in the meantime, while he was still roaming around Galilee with his friends and followers, whom might he eat with next?
Sermon by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo
Did you notice what book our first reading came from this morning? Even if you’ve heard those words before, you might not have realized they were from a book called … Lamentations?
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, [God's] mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
“[Today] is Sunday.” So, Pastor Tony Robinson says, “I … go to worship to get my attitude adjusted, my perspective restored. I … go to be reminded that God's mercies never cease, that God's faithfulness is THE BIG TRUE THING. Left to my own devices I forget this. I tend – like the author of Lamentations – to fix on how things are hard or unfair or just irritating. The Lamenter, in verses just before those [we read today], puts it this way, “Brooding on my anguish and affliction is gall and wormwood. My spirit ponders it continually and sinks within me.”
“That’s a pretty fair description of a spiritual rut to which most of us are prone every now and again. We focus on our grievances, our disappointments, life’s little injustices – and go slowly nuts. It doesn’t mean these aren’t ... real. I’m sure the author of Lamentations had plenty of genuine lament material, and so at times do we. [Heaven knows our world situation has been giving us plenty to lament lately.] And it can be important to tell it like it is, without cover-up.
“But that’s never the whole story,” Robinson continues. “Focusing on our pain and problems, we tend to forget the larger and longer story of mercy. We tend to forget how gracious God has been, and all that we have received that we can’t honestly claim to deserve.”
Our second Scripture lesson too, reminds us that ideal life circumstances are by no means required for us to bear witness to God’s grace. For it was from a Roman prison cell that Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to rejoice in the Lord, and to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, and excellent.
Life can be hard, sometimes exceedingly hard, it’s true. But it is also true that God can meet us in the midst of hard times, just as God can meet us in the midst of joyful times, and shower us with love and mercy. The important thing for each of us as individuals is to pay attention. To open our eyes and ears. To notice.
It’s also important for us as a church family to share with one another what we notice. Some of you may know the poet Mary Oliver’s “Instructions for Living a Life?” “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell About it.” It’s good advice for congregations too. “So often…beautiful stories of God float through the church unspoken.” But when we take a moment now and then to share them, what a gift those stories can be.
Earlier this year we started sharing personal stories of involvement here at Magnolia Presbyterian Church, and the difference that has made in individual lives. This fall, we are going to be expanding our storytelling focus in worship, so that you can begin telling one another about other ways you’ve seen God at work in the world, too. The particular story you wish to share might have to do with MPC specifically, or it might not. The only requirement is that whatever brief glimpse of grace you choose to share is “a God thing,” if you will. We’re all going to theologize together, which simply means to engage in God talk.
But to do this successfully, we will first need to pay attention.
Let me give an example from our monthly Session meetings. (Session is just a Presbyterian word for church board.) In our monthly board meetings, I ask our elders to take turns listening for prayer requests – both joys and concerns – as we make our way through the business of that particular day. It’s hard sometimes, for me as the moderator of those meetings, to get us through the agenda in a timely manner and at the same time to notice all of the various ways God has been working in the life of the congregation over the course of a particular month. What an enormous help it can be – to all of us - to have a designated noticer draw our attention to these things as we close out the evening. A designated noticer. When these folks really do their job and pay attention, listening to an entire meeting with a focus on what we should be praying about, we often come away realizing that even things we found challenging were actually gifts in disguise: “Thank you, God, for church members that care so much about each other that each and every death in our church family hits us hard…Thank you, God, for a growing number of children and youth in our church, making it critical that we expand our programming and bring on new staff.”
It’s been said that bidden or unbidden, God is present. So too, noticed or unnoticed, God is always at work. I don’t know about you, but I want to be sure I’m noticing, as often as possible.
Bombarded with bad news as often as we are, I want to start asking myself: Where is the good news? Where can I catch a glimpse of God’s grace and mercy? Where are people acting toward one another in ways that demonstrate what the kingdom of God can be like?
Just imagine all of the different places we could be looking!
It might be something that happens to you personally, or something you witness first hand. A moment that to someone else might not seem that remarkable, but that took your breath away in the conviction that it was a “God thing.” Or a small interaction with a homeless guest at Operation Nightwatch that really stuck with you. Or something your child said about God that kind of knocked your socks off because it was so profoundly true. Or perhaps you have regular opportunities to see in your place of work people quietly living out the gospel, lavishing love and kindness on others. Surely they must be agents of God, who is Love.
And we can notice God at work in other ways too. If you have an artistic bent, you might find a powerful message of God’s grace in a painting, a poem, or a photograph. My husband Ken is forever noticing meaningful truths about God and God’s people in places like popular movies and Sports Illustrated articles. If you are an avid reader, you might find a story of God’s grace in a novel, or in that remarkably good news story that was buried way back in the bottom inches of page 25 in The New York Times. You might even catch a glimpse of God at work in a Facebook post. Because we do tend to notice, don’t we, and really want to share those posts that highlight compassion and kindness, and the kind of self-giving love that Jesus modeled for us? And of course we know that God also speaks to us in the pages of Scripture. How did that familiar Bible passage, or that verse you’d never read before, grab you with a message of God’s grace?
Pay attention. Be astonished. And then tell us about it.
Remember that these God stories, these glimpses of grace, don’t even need to be contemporary examples. Are you an avid reader of history or biography? Tell us where you have found stories of God at work in the lives of others, in any age. There’s no statute of limitations on personal stories either; surely we can all learn as much from a God moment that you experienced decades ago, as from something that happened to you last week.
And where is it written that these God stories must all be happening nearby? God’s world is an awfully big world, with a tremendous amount happening at any given moment. Some of it is quite terrifying, to be sure, but some of it is extraordinarily good. Where are God’s helpers at work in situations of crisis around the world? And where are there small, gentle stories of God’s love among families, friends, and congregations near and far?
If you have a story to be shared, but you prefer not to speak aloud in front of the congregation, I’d be more than happy to share it on your behalf, and you may very well have other friends in the church who’d be happy to share it for you too. This is not an assignment we would ever want to limit to those most comfortable with public speaking. For we might not all be called to speak, but surely we are all called to notice, and to find ways to convey our gratitude for God’s work in our world.
As Frederick Buechner reminds us, “It is absolutely critical…to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present.”
What’s more, if God’s mercies are new every morning, then by definition there is no end to the good news stories we could be telling one another. Stories of God, and Grace, and Gratitude.
So “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell About it.” “[Too] often…beautiful stories of God float through the church unspoken.” But when we take a moment now and then to share them, what a gift those stories can be. Won’t you join me in some good old-fashioned God talk this year?
 Tony Robinson, “Perspective,” from Still Speaking Daily Devotional, October 5, 2013
 Lillian Daniel, Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony, p. xiv
 Mary Oliver, “Instructions for Living a Life”
 Lillian Daniel, Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony, p. xiv