You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to the people.
from Psalm 68:24-35
If everyone helps to hold up the sky,
then one person does not become tired.
Askhari Johnson Hodari
Imagine, you are sitting amongst the rubble of your God’s temple. Some of your neighbors have been abducted by a pagan king who knows not of the God of your forefathers. Amongst the broken pillars, pottery, and dying fires you find a scrap of a scroll that survived the burning of your God’s House. A scrap of a psalm
Summon your power, God;
show us your strength, our God,
as you have done before.
The irony burns in your gut like hot bile. Where is God?
That’s a big question isn’t it? And if we’re honest, here in 2018, almost 2600 years after the fall of Solomon’s temple to Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians, we all have at one point (or several points) cried out to the Heavens, “God, where are you?” “Why did you allow this to happen?” “Does what I’m going through matter to you at all?”
Meanwhile, your abducted neighbors are sitting on the banks of the rivers of Babylon, telling their stories. They don’t have the temple, they don’t have the scrolls, they don’t have the Torah, but they have their stories. And it was their stories that kept them going for the 70 years they lived in a land that was not theirs, amongst people that hated them.
What is church if not a place where we gather to tell our stories. We tell our stories to remember who we are, where we came from, what we went through, and how we lived to tell the tale, but we also tell our stories to help each other when we find ourselves in foreign lands, surrounded by enemies.
When you tell me the story of how you took care of your sick mother that was diagnosed with the same disease my mother, or my child, or my spouse was diagnosed with, your story telling doesn’t make my mother, or my child, or my spouse any less sick, but it does help me feel like maybe I’m not the only one who has had to deal with a terrifying sickness.
When you tell me the story of how your sister rebuilt her life after a soul crushing marriage ended, it gives me a bit of hope, a bit of new life, to get through my own journey.
When you find yourself on a dark path you’d rather not be walking, seeing someone a few steps ahead of you gives you hope. That is the power of stories. And I think, that is the power of God.
That small, still voice.
That insistence that “I am with you.”
That reassurance that you are not alone.
That promise that no matter what you are going through, the God who created all things, loves all things, and redeems all things, is with you.
That is power. And we share that power, when we share our weaknesses with each other. That is God. That is Church. May we always have stories to tell.
by Devin Gardner
Photo credit: Downtown Reno in Winter, Artist Unknown