Some of you like to read books. Others of us like to watch good tv shows or movies. What’s the common thing among these things?
The common thing is that they are about stories. Stories are a central part of human beings. There is power in a good story. A good story keeps us engaged: you want to know what’s going to happen next, you’re interested in the story’s development, you develop a like or dislike for characters.
Good tv shows know how to keep us engaged – they’ll end an episode with a cliffhanger that wants us to come back. We are people of stories.
Do you believe that your life is a story that is unfolding? Do you believe that your life is an exciting story that’s worth paying attention to?
I believe that it is, and I know that God believes it is. One amazing thing about being a pastor is that I get to see the story of your lives unfold, and even be a small part of that story – by helping and supporting you as your life story unfolds. That’s an amazing and wonderful thing that I’m so thankful for. To me, seeing your stories unfold is way more exciting than any show on Netflix or YouTube. Because your stories are real stories.
So do you believe that your life is a story? What about God? Do you believe that God has a story?
Here’s what our faith is all about: we believe that God has a great big story. The Bible is a collection of stories that really tell us about God’s big story. This story continues on to today and into the future.
But here’s the even greater thing: God calls us to be a part of God’s great story, and to have our own stories enter into God’s great big story. Do you believe that God calls you to be a part of God’s great big story? If we believe that God calls us into God’s great big story, that changes how we see our lives, doesn’t it?
Today’s passage is about the last days of Moses. Moses lived quite the life. His life can be broken down into 3 main phases. In the first, he was raised as an adopted prince in the Egyptian royal household. In the second phase, he lived a very comfortable life raising animals, getting married and having kids. The third phase of his life was where God called on Moses to lead his people out of Egypt and into the promised land. Moses is most remembered for this last phase.
But here’s the thing we learn from today’s passage: Moses did indeed lead his people out of Egypt, but he himself did not make it into the promised land. He saw the promised land from the mountaintop – he had a glimpse and a view of it – but he could never taste it. It was his successor, Joshua, who would eventually lead the Hebrews into the promised land.
That made me think. I realized that this is how it is with our lives. We make all these plans and goals for ourselves, but rarely do we achieve them all. But a message from this story is that this is okay. Moses lived a full life – in fact, the passage today says that “never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses” (v.10). He is perhaps the most revered prophet Israel had known. But he himself did not enter the promised land.
What does this teach us? The lesson here is that it’s not about us and what we accomplish, but it’s really about God’s story. God’s story included the Hebrews entering the promised land, but someone else would lead the people into it. Moses had his calling and role – and important it was. He led his people out of slavery! But someone else would play the role of leading them into the promised land.
This is how it is with our lives: we are called to live our lives fully, but we ourselves will never complete God’s story. We do everything we can, but in the end, we have comfort in the fact that God’s story continues. This takes so much pressure off ourselves. So even if we seem to fail at reaching some of our goals, God assures us that God’s story continues.
We believe in God’s great, big story. After Jesus, God gave us the Church. What is the church? There’s a song from my childhood: “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together; all who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes we’re the church together. The church is not a temple, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people”. The church is the people. The church is you and I.
All through history, the Church has been a part of God’s story. There are many times in this history where people took the Church in wrong and very bad directions, but nonetheless the Church continued on, trying to be faithful to God’s story.
Today is the 21st anniversary of St. Timothy. When I think about our church, I am so thankful for all the people that have contributed to building up this community. Countless people have contributed their love, time, energy and prayers. Look at our beautiful Hi-C: it didn’t just magically appear out of nowhere. Countless people offered their love and energy. I think of people like Jonathan, who loved and blessed this Hi-C so much. Before that were people like Joel, Laura, Josh, who blessed us with their lives. A lot of the grade 12’s have been reflecting about his this is their last year in Hi-C: it will be sad when they leave, but right now they are blessing us so much with their presence and love for this community. People may come and go, but God’s story continues.
When we see things this way, our hearts should be filled with gratitude for the blessing to be a part of this story. You are the Hi-C, you are the church. You are contributing your lives to this story of St. Timothy.
Think about it: each of you come with your own histories, your own backgrounds, your own life experiences. There have been many hurts, joys, disappointments that we’ve had in our lives. Yet we come together and share our lives. We add our stories to the overall story of this church, and we feel so blessed. That’s why things like retreats are so special – we can in a focused way bring our stories together in love and enrich each other. Later on, when you look back on this time, you can look back with gratitude for the role that this church played in your life. Hopefully many of you can continue to develop the story of St. Timothy, as we discern how to be part of God’s story.
So in your own lives too, I want you to think of your life as an unfolding story. In a great story, we don’t know how things will turn out, but we eagerly anticipate how it will! That’s how it should be with our lives – God created each of us to have an exciting story. Let us ask God to lead us as this story unfolds. Further, let us ask God to lead our story to be a part of God’s continually unfolding story. I believe that this is really God’s will for us – to be a part of God’s exciting, never-ending story.
Happy anniversary to our church. And may God bless you in your life as your story continues to unfold.