Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25

Three years ago when my family traveled to New York state we were prepared to see some of the well-known sights along the way. We were prepared to go to Hershey, Penn., Gettysburg, even the Cane Ridge Meeting House where Barton W. Stone preached. But these were not the sights I was most excited to see. Most of all I enjoyed touring my father’s hometown and having him point out to me the house where old man Pussyfoot lived. I wanted to see the porch where he would jump out stomping mad after the neighborhood kids had egged his window. I wanted to see the house of the lady next door who was so scared of ghosts and called him up exasperated one night because the gang of kids had put one of their friends in a sheet and stuck him in her window. I wanted to see the field where they had left Pussyfoot’s Nash Rambler after shifting it into neutral and rolling it down the hill with a nail stuck in the horn. And I wanted to see the old church building - yes, the old, old chapel. Not that it was a place of our family’s faith – no, I wanted to see the roof of the old church building where my grandfather and his friends had left the sheriff’s Model T after hoisting it up there one Halloween night.

These places had been real to me for over 20 years, but I only saw them with my own eyes three years ago. How is that possible? Because these places were real and living to me – I was connected to them through my father’s stories.

Stories invite us to participate in community - stories connect us over the generations.

Think about it: Even a made up story can speak the truth. For over 25 years, Garrison Keillor has been telling the stories of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. People listen and say, "I know these people." But how is that possible when Lake Wobegon is an invention of Keillor’s imagination? Perhaps it is because Keillor’s stories contain universal truths of human experience?

Some of us had the privilege and benefit yesterday of attending the Marriage Seminar at the Convention Center. We were there to learn about marriage and how to communicate effectively and even thought the speakers presented a few principle statements, the bulk of the presentation was stories. Now why did they do that? Why spend all that time telling stories about their own families and their own experiences and mistakes? (Well, perhaps they do that so you will come away saying, "Well at least we’re not that bad off!") Perhaps it is because their story connects with our experience and that invites us to imagine ourselves in similar situations. Through connection, we learn and grow.

From the lesser to the greater:
If married couples can be connected to core principles by listening to the stories of a marriage counselor ...
If people across our nation can feel connected to something universal by listening to the stories of Garrison Keillor ...
If I can feel connected, rooted, and inspired to my family by the simple stories of my father’s hometown and his misadventures ...

Then shouldn’t we be all the more connected, inspired, and formed by the stories of God and his mighty acts?

We must be vivid and capable "storytellers" who live by the script God writes. Only by entering into the story of God’s mighty acts (for Israel it was the Exodus, for us it is the cross) will we live in such a way that the next generation will ask the really important questions.

Have you ever been around a real storyteller? My great-grandfather was known for that.
He could tell stories in ways that would command attention. Everyone would get quiet when he would sit there with his Styrofoam spittoon and say ''this is like the day up near Huntsville when the sawmill blade got loose" -and you were hooked! You listened and weren’t distracted when he told you how the blade sawed right a house at dinner time and cut the steaks in half. These were living tales – but more than that they made connections and they created community.

Stories command our attention and connect us ...
The failure of our news/reality show age is that it has nothing to do with what happened yesterday and has very little to say about what’s possible tomorrow. And such disconnected blurbs of "info-tainment" cannot connect us to one another and certainly don’t do much to connect us to the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever ...

The stories of God we tell our children are "connected" stories and they answer the WHY questions. What do we mean by "connected" stories – the are connected to our life (the way we live), the things we do, they are connected to church, family and world (throughout time – past and future), and most of all they are connected to God.

  1. Why do we eat crackers and grape juice?
  2. Why don’t we go to the lake every Sunday?
  3. Why are those people going far away and leaving their home here?
  4. Why ado we sing and smile when those people come from behind the pulpit dripping wet?

An explanation might placate a child’s curiosity, but a story invites them into the tradition and practice of real faith. It invites them into a future, a life, in which our God is their God too and they will know him as we know him.

Our children want us to Tell them a story Can we tell them a story of God and what God has done Or are we going to give them a doctrinal proposition about God?

Dedicating our Children to God demands that we be dedicated also. Are the stories, commands, statutes, teachings of God written on our hearts? Do we wear them on our sleeves? Are the so written so clearly on our heads and hands that everything we think and do is guided naturally by God’s ways? Do the stories written into our homes tell about our faith? What about the stories written into these walls here at West-Ark? Is there enough there to invite a child to ask us "What’s this all about?"

And will we be able to answer:

"We were slaves to sin and God powerfully intervened and got us out of sin. We watched and listened as God did miracles and wonders through his Son Jesus Christ. We were amazed that he suffered on the cross. We were grieved when he was laid in the tomb. We were stunned when he rose from the dead. And now that he rules over heaven and earth, he pulled us out of the dominion of sin so he could bring us into his rule. That’s why God instructs us to keep his feast and share his good news and to sing with gladness and to share our blessings. He gives us everything good in life and it just makes sense that we should do what he says"

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 6 June 2004

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