I grew up in Texas, which is an extremely oral culture. We tell stories. We tell little stories about the people who used to live in the house on the corner or the football game when we won the state championship. And we tell BIG stories about our history – about the battle at the Alamo; about being a country before being a state; and about Texas legends like Travis, Austin, Crockett, and others. Telling stories in my culture is vital. It is as much a part of Texans as breathing.
I also grew up in a story telling household. We heard stories about ancestors who fought in the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as some of my relatives call it), my dad juggling a watermelon and dropping it all over the kitchen floor as a kid, and an intriguing story from my Great Aunt Edna about the little people who lived in the moss outside her window.
These stories are a part of me because they are part of my story. My life story. The story of me. It is an important story because it is my story. And to honor it – I have to tell my story. A huge part of my story is my faith in God, my being a follower of Jesus, my devotion to my vocation, my growing up in Texas, and my love of family. Telling the story of me and my faith journey is essential.
I teach my students to honor their stories. I teach them to be proud of their journey – their life journey and their faith journey. And I teach my preaching students to tell the Gospel story in profound, personal, and relevant ways. Telling stories is important in the life of the church. The story of the Hebrew people makes up the Old Testament, the story of Jesus is told in the Gospels, and the story of the early church is recounted in the Epistles. These stories are important to read, hear, and respond to. They are the stories of our faith.
Yesterday, I spent time with a group of women attending the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia’s Women’s Day event. We talked about the stories of women from the Bible – Eve, Esther, Rachel, Leah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Salome, Mary Magdalene, Dorcas, the Samaritan Woman at the Well, Priscilla, Huldah, the Woman with the Issue of Blood, Mary and Martha, and others. It was a powerful time of conversation.
We also talked about the importance of honoring these stories and the women’s own stories in the life of the church. Some of these stories are told in the church on a regular basis – in worship, in preaching, in study, and in communal gatherings. But unfortunately many are not. Women’s stories are often either omitted or told only to forward the story of the male characters in the story. At the very least women get their stories told on Women’s Sunday or Mother’s Day. Some churches are much better than this – thank goodness – but some are not.
Today, we also hear women’s place in society and their rights to make decisions about their own lives being bandied about as political power plays. Whether you agree or not with the topics of debate – the way men in power are talking about women without asking women to participate in the decisions is repugnant. Women are being silences in many of these discussions. We ought to be able to tell our own stories and have a role in the decisions that affect our own lives.
We have to tell our stories. We have to tell the stories of women in our lives. We have to tell the stories of women in our faith journeys. We have to tell the stories of the women of the Bible and women who have and are leading the church.
Women’ stories are important. A friend shared the following quote from Muriel Rukeyser on my Facebook wall today - "What if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open."
Our stories are the stories that would split open the world. Our stories are the stories of the world – the stories of the church – the stories of us.
Tell them – often and everywhere. Tell them.