Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

Tuesday Night Church with Garrison Keillor

May 26, 2017

I had the opportunity to go to church last Tuesday evening. We were ushered to our seats and after the announcements were finished the preacher finally entered on stage. The staging area, for lack of better descriptors, was simple, non-ornate, curtains hung on the three surrounding walls, with only a single four-legged stool, and a lone microphone stand and mic.

This preacher was simply dressed, dark suit, white shirt, bright red tie with socks to match. He began a kind of dance, if you will, with the audience, moving deliberately from side to side, each step and slide appeared chosen and exact, and periodically he would sit on the stool. At one point of small intermission, he came down from the stage and joined us in the center aisle. He began his sermon speaking of poetry and the longing need for the art in our culture and society.

He then did a curious thing, he sang a song, and then he invited us to join in the singing with him. There was something about this invitation, and part of it was what I brought into the space with me, the experiences and knowledge that I carried into the sanctuary that night; my readings of this persons writing regarding his own political thoughts and struggles with the current political climate, the laughter I have shared listening to his radio show, and the shared grief in knowing he had just buried his seventeen year old grandson earlier that day…which he never mentioned.

I must think it was a bit of all of that, but I was touched and struck profoundly for some reason as he coaxed us into the first song we sang, My Country Tis of Thee, I couldn’t sing it, the knot in my stomach, the lump in my throat, and the tears in my eyes would not allow me to sing. So, I stood, soaking in, reveling in whatever this moving moment was about, and listened to the voices sing of this country of mine…of ours.

We sang Home on the Range, How Great Thou Art, Only Fools Rush In, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. These are but a few of the songs we sang; hymns, non-religious songs, we heard Shakespeare and poetry written by our preacher. We heard story after story of life and death and faith. We listened to stories of first loves, of bodies pressed against unclothed body, stories of youth and struggling to understand. We heard stories of growing old and health challenges complete with anatomically correct descriptions of medical procedures and prostates. We heard poetry that spoke of bodily function and humor referring to balls of brass and lightening coming out of one’s …well, ass.

And we sang, and laughed, I don’t know about anyone else but at least one cried, and pondered, and was touched deeply, and encouraged, and challenged. I am not sure what anyone else heard that night in the Stiefel Sanctuary, but here is what I walked away with. I witnessed a quiet man with a deep, deep love of country, family, relationship, and life. I watched him weave the stories of life, faith, humor, and love into a tapestry so very real it touched my heart and soul almost from the very beginning of his speaking. And for a couple of hours, I watched this teller of stories, draw a crowd of diverse people together into one place and into one voice.

As we walked back to our car I told TruDee, “I’ve been to church tonight… it was SO REAL!” Sometimes, this story he told over almost two and half hours that night was not just his story, it was my story, it was all of our stories at some point. There was something within this tapestry of telling that spoke to every one of us in the building at some point or another. It was so very REAL.

Sometimes, while I ponder, I wish the church could be so real more often, rather than the too frequent of hiding behind self-righteousness, feigned humility and modesty, religious platitudes, judgement, and condemnation.

Sometimes, while I ponder, I wish the church would simply be about the task of loving everyone, everyone, bumps, warts, body parts, young, old, weird, strange, different, … the REAL world, imperfect as it…as we are… just trying to make it through this journey together.

Sometimes, while I ponder, I long for such a world, a world where we sit down with our elders, with our peers, with our children and children’s children, and simply tell and listen to our stories…without judgement or condemnation, without correction or critique, simple telling and hearing our authentic selves and what brought us to this moment.

I long for such a place…

Some Day… Some Day…

Until then, tell your story… find a reason to listen to someone else’s.

And know you and they are beautiful and loved.



Remembering Easter

April 2, 2012

I think I mentioned some time back I was working on a personal journey writing, an extended journaling perhaps or a memoir. It is a personal writing and perhaps book bound if I ever get to that point, a reflective journey through my life and experience and how I have come to understand this path to the progressive theology and life I know and embrace.

I was writing a section on my experience of the days we lost my older brother to a tragic football accident when I was thirteen. The thing that struck me most about recalling those days was what I could not remember. There were huge gaps in my own memory only filled in by what I remember my family telling me about the days immediately preceding his death and the days directly following. I thought of all the memories I have of Chris and the things we did together, good memories and bad. We were typical brothers getting along with many good and fond memories as well as “fighting like brothers,” as my grandpa used to say.

I remember stories told by my mom and dad, my sister, and others who knew him well, even stories in my own mind that on one level or another I know are true and embellished. Sometimes it seems that the memory in my mind and the stories that have been shared over the years paints a picture of a perfect teenager at the age of fifteen when he died. Chris was an exceptionally talented young man, musically, athletically, and according to many of the stories I remember spiritually, and mature for his age. And at the same time I am very aware that he was fifteen, and there are no perfect fifteen year olds, in the sense of a model child who never did any wrong.

I am reminded of the cliché “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” which is often true; I also believe absence can fuel memories that can seem larger than life. That occurs, at least in part, because I want to remember just the good stuff that happened, but Chris and I were close enough to know neither one of us were angels and there were times we participated in less than angelic behavior …together. At his death it was opportunity to place him on a pedestal which I believe, at least to my recollection, we as a family and his closest friends were more than willing to do. Not that the stories do not contain truth, but sometimes I think if he were to come back, even he would have a hard time filling all the shoes we have put on him.

I mention this part of my journey as it is what came to mind as I try to read once again for the first time the telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As I ponder the stories we have sometimes I wonder about the telling and how time and fondness did and continues to have an effect on the telling. It is important to do the research to understand the time, place, social, and cultural environment the stories were written in as well as the original audience for whom the stories were written. Based on my own experience the stories cause me to wonder about the remembering of Jesus life years after his death finally being written down. Not that they do not contain truth, but how accurate they are and how much of them are statements of faith and life of the early community of believers as opposed to actual happenings, especially in terms of the resurrection story that we remember this next Sunday.

There are numerous resurrection stories and even more interpretations of the stories. There are those who believe the resurrection was a literal bodily resuscitation. There are those who believe Jesus did not really die but just appeared to have died. There are those who believe he was resurrected but it was a strange new body with special abilities. There are those who believe it was a spiritual resurrection and not bodily. Marcus Borg speaks of not a bodily resurrection but that the Disciples continued to experience the presence of Christ in a profound way. And those who look at the early followers as the body of Christ and this expression and community were raised up empowered by the Spirit.

Reading progressive theological language around the issue this statement appears most often, “Believe what you want about the resurrection, bodily, spiritually, presence, the community of faith, but how does it affect your life here and now, how does it shape your life and faith, does the story give you new life, what difference does it make in the way you treat your fellow human kind?”

I know the experience of my brother’s death and the remaining stories, be they entirely true or not, had and continues to have, a profound impact on who I am and on my own understanding of life, faith, and love, I know this is truth for me.

Here in lies the truth of the resurrection story in a progressive theological framework; does the story move you to love God and neighbor, does the story move you to act justly, kindly, and humbly?

I pray this week brings you hope in the midst of struggle, healing in the midst of brokenness, laughter and singing borne of joy, and moves you from death to life! Join us this Sunday as we celebrate Easter and New Life in and among us all!

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.