The Musings of Jeff Doucette


Passing on our story as God's people

Posted by jeffdoucette on November 13, 2017 at 11:00 AM

   We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God... Psalm 78

I remember growing up when I was probably 12 or 13 and one of the Wednesday gatherings at our little church in Plaster Rock. I heard one of the most scandalous things to ever come out of my priest Leo’s mouth. As he went up the steps out the door he waved at us and hollered “Don’t keep the Faith…” I gasped thinking what an awful thing for him to say. Then after a planned pause…he finished his sentence with a grin and the words “Spread it!!!” I think three of the elderly parishioners needed to be helped back up before we all broke into a grin and laughter. This phrase “Don’t keep the faith…spread it!” became a favorite phrase and reminder to us all from him.

“Keep the faith” is a phrase we often hear. For those of us who are Blue Jays fans that should have been the motto for 2017. It seems to be the eternal motto of Maple Leaf fans. Habs fans like myself just usually pray to Saint Jude patron saint of hopeless cases or to Saint Anthony, patron Saint of lost things hoping Carey Price their goalie finds his form once again. But I digress…where was I?

Oh yes…”Don’t keep the Faith…spread it”. That could be the motto for the psalmist in today’s psalm. The People of Israel were in Exile and in the desert. They were wanderers and had begun to wander away from God and their story. They were losing their identity and so the psalmist challenged the faithful to pass on the sacred history of God’s activity among them, the chosen people. They had become unfaithful to God, losing hope, losing sight. And so the passing on of the tradition was an integral part of reconnecting with this faithfulness between them. It was crucial to maintain their identity as a people of God. And the only way to stay the People of God was to tell the story of the people of God.

The Psalmist pleads with the people to remember their story and tell their story to one another and especially to their children who in turn must tell it to their children. This story of God who was loving and faithful and forgiving and ever present to them. It was interwoven into their story in how they lived out this relationship. And if they stopped telling the story, their story would die. And nothing else would matter.

So how do we stay connected to our identity as God’s children, as followers of Jesus? Or more importantly does it really truly matter to us? How do we stay connected to our story as God’s children or followers of Jesus? When I left as a priest, I never left my identity as God’s child or as a follower of Jesus. I searched out churches to help me redefine my identity as God’s child and how to move forward no longer a priest. I did so because my relationship to God, to the greater people of God was important to me.

For me Sunday is where we hear our story for the most part…in the readings, in the singing, in the passing of peace. We can certainly find God in nature but the stories we hear here together. And we hear them often and sometimes over and over and that is okay because we change, our life situations change. There are some days Dawn our music director and I go…”ACK!!! Not that reading again”. But it is a reason I very rarely write out a sermon so that I cannot be tempted to just go back when stuck and use the same one hoping you won’t remember it from three years ago. I don’t do that because I have changed since the last time, and you as a church family have changed. We are living different things and situations and we see how that reading can speak to us and challenge us. And in those stories we discover God in a different way and it touches and transforms our lives. And we find the courage hopefully to share those stories together as a church, as a family back home, in the world wherever our day takes us. And our words and actions speak of a faithful God who walks with us, talks to us, invites us, loves us, forgives us, encourages us. And we in turn pass that relationship on in the stories we tell and actions we do.

I see evidence of how this is passed on by parents to their children as they come up here for children’s time. You can see prayers are taught, God language and God questions are taught and it is wonderful. As Christians, as followers of Jesus, as members of Dunbarton-Fairport United we need to tell our story. In the same way we have told our story for 182 years. And not about how we have survived leaks and floods and bad roofs. But about how God has been there with us at the beside of a sick loved one, or the graveside of a family member or friend who died. Or when someone has sat with us when we have raged at God in anger, cried from the depths of our heart. Or when we have welcomed the marginalized into the story of our faith. Or as we will do in a few moments when some may come forward hurting in body and spirit to be prayed with and anointed with oil.

We have a Visioning committee that is gathering again this week to look at the future of our church congregation…not only buildings and finances…but how do we continue to tell our story as a church family of Dunbarton-Fairport to one another and to the world. We as a United Church in general are asking ourselves the same question. We have voted overwhelming on all the church remits in favor of a new structure, to look at how we are church and tell our United Church story with as much vision and hope as 90 years ago when the United church was formed. How do we move outside the current structures and ways of doing things to be able to continue to tell our story of faith as a United Church?

We live in Exile today also. It is a time of uncertainty, of change. We can choose to panic, to turn us away from the story or let ourselves become distracted. If we do that the story of God gets left on the table to collect dust. Don’t set our story, our identity aside. Don’t panic or give up. And especially don’t say “I am too old”. Faith is timeless, Courage is timeless, Hope is timeless. Our story is timeless. Embrace it, live it, tell it, share it.

Don’t keep the Faith…spread it!!!!!

Until next time...

Rev. Jeff

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