The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

It has been an interesting week – with a combination of the usual and the unusual. When I want to wake up in the morning, I set two alarms. I have some preset alarm times – press a button and it’s set but I wanted to get up to do some work before I had to be at my first appointment and none of the preset times suited. This meant changing the alarm on both devices. No problem. I’ve done it many times before. So I was surprised when I woke up nearly an hour past the time set. So much for getting some work done! I was curious about how I could sleep through two alarms so I checked both of them and the conclusion was that I actually didn’t set either alarm. Somehow I didn’t turn the alarms on! Accident? Subconscious action? Stupidity? I could write a story from each perspective but what really happened?

On Friday I was driving back from a Churches Together in England meeting in Derbyshire and some Good Shepherd visits. The road conditions ranged from sunshine and dry to very heavy rain. But it was a notable trip because there were three incidents of cars veering into other lanes, not seeing the cars there and nearly causing accidents. The first two were vehicles coming at me! The first one was so close, I don’t know how there wasn’t an accident. On both occasions I was in my lane and the fact that I wasn’t ‘in the wrong’ definitely helped me recover. After the second incident I saw the ‘offending’ car in my rear vision mirror pull over and stop and I imagine because the driver was quite shocked. The third occasion happened in front of me and again the car ‘in the wrong’, when it could, slowed down and pulled over. Should I regard myself as fortunate or unfortunate when I’m home from my Friday travels?

We are the stories we tell ourselves. That is because words matter. They are powerful! They can create and destroy, uplift or put down, ennoble or shame. Life happens – much of it is beyond our control though we try to control as much of it as possible – and the words we bring to both what we do and what happens to us are not unimportant. Do they talk about agency or victim? Do we talk about personal responsibility or that it is everyone else’s fault? I am sure both can be true answers! But saying just one thing, all the time, possibly isn’t accurate to the context and reflects more our sense of being.

Who are we? What is our sense of being – when we sleep through alarms or nearly get hit by a car – and as we live through each day? My guess is that we have a sense of self – and can describe our strengths and weaknesses – and that sense of self is also shaped by special people around us (whether they affirm us or not). For the Christian, Jesus is part of the stories we tell ourselves. Maybe we have stories of God’s care or when we felt betrayed and let down by God – of feelings or of no feelings – but what is most important here is that our stories do not define reality but are in response to reality. Our words about God and us should come from God’s Word about us and him! And that means hearing about Jesus, about his cross and empty tomb, and hearing about Baptism where God’s words become personal – they are now ‘for you’! We can write diaries each day or think about who we are and what happens – and God may be involved or not in the moment – and yet when we reflect on who we are and what each day might mean, Christians can’t go past the truth in Christ – that if God is for us, nothing can be against us! That’s no magic carpet ride through life but rather the promise that God will be with us, help us, enrich us in all the moments and days we have!

In all the stories we tell about our days, about others, about ourselves, about our hopes and dreams, about our joys and sorrows, and even on the day we die, for the Christian these stories are all told over the foundational words from God, ‘I love you’.