Every person, entity, and community has a narrative; a story that describes who they are and what they believe. Some call it an elevator speech; companies call it advertising. We use this narrative to help people who are unfamiliar with us to understand who we are at our core. Facebook has a spot where you can write a one-paragraph narrative to describe yourself, and if you have tried to do this, you know it isn’t easy. What is your narrative? It’s like being at one of those speed dating gatherings; how would you convince someone to go out with you in 30 seconds or less? I always begin my narrative with “I’m married to an amazing woman, and we have two incredible adult children. I am a follower of Jesus and a pastor, by God’s grace. I have served Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA since 1999.” For me, I put the most important things in my life in order; what comes after depends on what day it is.
It was maybe 15 years ago that my denomination came out with this narrative: we are a church of extravagant welcome. This wasn’t very popular in my neck of the woods. Sure, every church thinks it is welcoming and friendly and nice, but few that I have attended are anything I would consider to be extravagant in any way. The word itself doesn’t really fit; extravagant always seems, at least to me, something that is over the top and, to be honest, kind of irritating. Most people want to be a little under the radar when they first visit a church; they want to be welcomed but also given a little space. After all, they are just checking us out; if we go overboard, it might scare them away. This good-intentioned narrative didn’t work as well as the church had hoped.
A few years later the denomination offered another option; God is Still Speaking. For some of our naturally crabby congregations, this didn’t fit either, but for me, it was exactly what we needed to say. We got pushback from Bible thumpers who think God stopped speaking at the end of Revelation; that was expected. For our congregation, though, the idea was simple and true; that God is still being God. God is still moving and creating and guiding us every day. God doesn’t want us to look backward; God wants us to grow into who we might become. It’s kind of like saying that God spoke then, and God speaks now, and God will speak into the future. God isn’t done with us yet. Stop worrying about the End Times – stop complaining about how things aren’t what they were – start living as if there’s hope in the world.
Like Andy and Red said in “The Shawshank Redemption”, we need to “Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying” (Fall Out Boy sang about it later, but Stephen King wrote it first). It seems to me that this might be a good narrative for our personal and our spiritual lives; don’t give up – there’s so much more to be done. Get a move on. Life is short. Live while you are alive.
Prayer – God, You have given us an amazing life to live. Give us the courage to do just that. Amen.