15th Sunday OT C ~"Your Story, God's Story" ~ Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer


“Tell me about yourself.”


How would you answer that question?

You might say:

“I’m a student.”

Or

“I’m an athlete.”

Or

“I’m a carpenter; a teacher; a nurse; a farmer, a roustabout.


But what if you ask someone who is retired?

What would they say?

Chances are, they wouldn’t say,

“I used to be a teacher.” Or, “I used to be a nurse.”

Chances are that they would cross their arms,

lean back and you tell you a a story:


“Who am I? Well, you know, my father was born in Jalisco, Mexico.”

Or, “My grandparents, they emigrated from Ireland.”

Then the retired person will smile,

look off in the distance, then continue:

“Me? I grew up in Oklahoma.

I graduated from high school and got married.

My husband, Joe, he lost his arm in the oil field.

We lived in a yellow house on the edge of town.”


Then they might lower their eyes, shake their head.

“Twelve years ago, our oldest daughter died in auto accident.

I grieve for her to this day.”


Then they would look you in the eye and say:

“This is my story.

And this, my friend, is who I am.”


***


Every life is a story.

And every story

about every life…

is sacred.


I recently read a book

full of stories about the lives of people

whose stories are hard and difficult to hear.


I’m speaking about people whose lives have been deeply affected

by things like addiction, abuse and homelessness.

Here is snippet from one of the stories

about a family in a place called Portsmouth,

a town in my home state of Ohio:


At the entrance to Burger King, two dirty kids sit in a shopping cart filled with cans, children’s toys and blankets smelling of urine. Their father leans against the cart, and the 2-year-old girl and the 3-year-old boy stare at me with blank expressions. The girl holds a crumpled bag of potato chips, the boy an empty Mountain Dew bottle. A dirty Barbie doll sits tangled in the filthy blankets, its leg jammed into a pop bottle.


Their father, James, has been living this way for a while. When I ask about his life, he tells me he “is gonna to do the best he knows how for his kids.” Their mother stands nearby wearing pajama bottoms and a jacket. Her eyes are vacant and glassy. She holds a cardboard sign written in crayon: “Homeless. Hungry. Anything helps.” 1


This is their story.

Is it a sacred story?

Absolutely!

In some ways, it resembles the sacred story we hear in today’s gospel,

the story about a man lying in a ditch,

with busted teeth, a swollen lip and a broken leg.


This story come to us from the Lord Jesus.

Ever wonder why Christ told so many stories?


It is because stories become sacred

when enfolded into the story of God.

Think about it:

Without the story of God to save us,

we have only the story of despair to defeat us.


Let me repeat that:

Without the story of God to save us,

we have only the story of despair to defeat us.


Week after week,

the Great Story of God,

reminds us of who we are,

and who we are called to be.


A few minutes ago, I ask you a question:

I asked, “Who are you?’

And I made an assumption.

I assumed that most of you would say things like:

I am a carpenter.

I am an athlete.

I am a mother.

I am a welder.

I am retired.


Yet, we all know that what we do is not who we are.

And the only we can truly know who we truly are

is to discover the story of our life

embedded in the story of God.


Without the story of God,

the story of a carpenter supporting his family

would not remind us of a humble man named St. Joseph,

in a small town called Nazareth.


Without the story of God,

an athlete running a marathon

would not call to mind the words of St. Paul

telling us all to “run so as to win!”…

not a trophy at the end of the race,

but the prize of Heaven at the end of your life!


Without the story of the saints of God,

a young teacher in an inner-city school

would not remind us of St. Elizabeth Seton

or St. Angela Merici or Sr. Blandina Segale.


Without the Great Story of God,

a man in Ohio with two kids in a grocery cart

wrapped in blankets stinking of urine,

would not remind us of the story of the Good Samaritan

and the need for people like you and me

to draw close enough to such a family to smell the stink

and do something to help them to get back on their feet!


Without the story of God to save us,

we are left with the story of despair to defeat us.


This is why we have an obligation—a most serious obligation—

to show up here Sunday after Sunday.

Here, where the Holy Book is opened

and the Story of God is read.


The Great Story that tells us who we really are.

The Story of God which alone

makes the story of your life and the story of my life,

the story of our community, our country and, indeed,

the story of the human race itself,

a story of hope, a story of Redemption,

a story about mercy

that is deep and fierce,

and beyond all imagining.



1 “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Backrow America,” by Chris Arnade

Photo Credit: Photo by Manh LE on Unsplash.

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