Tell the Story
Deuteronomy 6:4-12 “Tell the Story”
One of the things the South is known for is knowing our story. In the South we tend to know from whence we came. We tend to know who our Daddy was, and all about our Momma’s family. We know about the in-laws and the outlaws. We know about the scandals. We know about the heroes. We know all of this stuff because if you were like me when you were a kid your parents would tell you all of these stories. When I was a kid I heard the stories about my Mom being raised in Dearborn, Michigan, and moving back to Tennessee just in time for the integration of the schools. I heard the story about my Mom playing clarinet in the high school band and her marching band from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, marching in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade. I heard the stories about my Dad growing up in Orangeburg, South Carolina. There were stories about Dad being born at home, and Dad’s two older sisters always calling Dad, Bub. My Dad just turned 80 years old the end of last month and some of my first cousins still call my Dad uncle Bub. There were stories about my Dad’s alcoholic father, and super controlling mother and all of the ways they used to bump heads. There was the story about how my Dad’s Dad dried up from the booze when Dad turned 10. (pause) Mom and Dad had all of these stories. Will you please think for just a minute about all of the stories your folks told you about where they were from, and the adventures or misadventures they had when they were growing up. (give it a long pause) Why was it so important for our parents and grandparents to pass down these stories?
It seems to me in the town of Denton a part of the reason those stories are so important is because they explain the ways people relate to one another in this town. Knowing where you came from and the misadventures your Dad had as a kid or who your Mom dated in high school gives us a clue as to who your neighbors, and those stories help us all to understand why we do or do not get a long today. Those stories tell us something about who we are and from where we came. These stories tell us who we are expected to be and what we are expected to become by our parents and the community as a whole.
What would you think if I told you the same is true about the people of God? Imagine for a minute that you were there when God brought the 12 plagues upon Egypt to rescue God’s chosen family, Israel. Imagine, for a minute you are there with your back to the Red Sea and the sound of Pharaoh’s chariots bearing down upon you. There’s no where to run. There is no where to hide. There is only death at Pharaoh’s hand or death from trying to swim for it across the Red Sea. And then a great cloud and a pillar of fire come down between you and Pharaoh’s army. Your leader prays to God, raises his staff, and the waters of the Red Sea part. It’s a miracle, but there’s no time to think about that now. Now is the time to go. God has your back, but now is the time to get your mule in gear. Now is the time to escape. We don’t know how long God will keep Pharaoh’s army behind that cloud. But the alternative… Have you ever walked through an entire ocean before? Have you ever walked on a path with great walls of water on either side? Have you ever walked through an ocean with dry ground under your feet? It flies in the face of disbelief. It’s scary. It’s really scary,… but then again, a leap of faith always is. Consider what it was to walk through the Red Sea. Consider the last of your people stepping on to the sand on the other side. Now imagine looking back to see the cloud and the pillar of fire are gone. Pharaoh’s army is charging through. A lump suddenly forms in the pit of your stomach. There is no way all of you can run fast enough to get away. Death is coming toward you on swift wheels and faster horses. Then, once the last of Pharaoh’s army enters the divide, God allows the walls to fall down. The walls of water fall down and crush Pharaoh, and his army. The man who thought himself a god is shown by the Lord God Almighty just what the power of the creator of the universe can do. God allowed the walls to fall down and Pharaoh and his army were destroyed. This is Israel’s story. It is no wonder our Scripture this morning commands Israel’s children to retell their story of their salvation from Egypt. It is a powerful story; and I’ll tell you something else. Israel’s redemption makes it possible for our redemption.
Many years later it is told by the prophet Micah, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient of days” (Micah 5:2). That babe born in Bethlehem is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, but more importantly God in the flesh. God who both created everything and did not despise the choice to become like one of us, and to live like one of us. God who was willing to sacrifice God’s only Son so that we would all have a chance at something none of our ancestors or forebears had before us – freedom. The freedom to make choices which lead us away from sin and toward a close and abiding relationship with God the Father Almighty. Like Israel walking through the Red Sea we have been delivered through death and on to salvation by faith from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God sent God’s only Son while we were yet sinners. That proves God’s love toward us. That proves God’s love toward us. This is an awesome story. This is an incredible story of love and rescue and redemption. I love to tell this story. I hope you love to tell this story as well.
Speaking of telling a great story there is this great movie from the 80’s called, “The Princess Bride.” In it a little boy is sick and his grandpa comes over to read him a story. The boy would rather play video games and asks if the book is any good. The grandfather says, “Are you kidding? It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.” Isn’t that the story of salvation as well? Israel fought against the Philistines. Jesus was tortured. David sought revenge for his, and his men’s wives being stolen, and fought off a giant. There are crazy monsters described in Daniel and at the end of the book of Job. Israel is chased by Pharaoh. Jesus performs miracles, dies and is raised from the dead because of the most powerful force in the universe; God’s true love for us. I love this story. I love to tell this story, but that’s not true of everybody.
Like the boy in the movie many of us are not so sure it is a story we want to hear. Many of us are sure it is not a story we would ever TRY to retell. The simple fact is we are embarrassed to try because too few of us feel as if we know the story of God’s love well enough to share it with others. (pause) My sisters and brothers it is a lie. It is a like to say you do not know the story of salvation well enough to share it with others. It is a lie and an excuse. I say it is a lie because we have heard stories about who we are and where we came from all of our lives. We are better story tellers than we give ourselves credit for. I think the devil tells us this lie, and sad to say far too many believe it. I say it is a lie because I’ll bet everyone of you money I don’t have that each and everyone of you can tell the stories of the greatest moments of your life. You can tell the story of the day you got your driver’s license. You can tell the story of the day you got married. You can tell the story of the day your children were born. You can tell those stories without thinking. I’m willing to bet if you thought about it you could tell the story of the day you gave your life to Christ. Maybe you were baptized as a baby, and you don’t remember it, but I bet you’ve heard the story. Maybe you confirmed your faith, or came to saving faith as a teenager or later as an adult. I’ll be you can tell the story of how God’s grace came upon you for the first time. Do you remember the fear? Do you remember the joy! This is a story worth telling. This is a story worth telling over and over and over again. I believe we can all tell this story because we are all good story tellers. We have been well trained for it.
Now you may not get all of the pieces of the Biblical story right. For now, that’s okay. We can work on what you don’t know. What is very important is that we recognize when we accept God’s saving grace we are not just accepting God’s gift of salvation. We are accepting the Lordship of Christ – the Lordship of God. God is in charge. We are in the service of the King of kings and Lord of lords. We are going to have to follow orders now. We are to love God and to love our neighbor. For we were once slaves to sin and death like the Israelites in Egypt and God is the one who saved us. We must, “take care lest [we] forget the Lord, who brought, [us] our of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord [our] God [we] shall fear. Him [we] shall serve by his name [we] shall swear” (Deut 6:14-15). This is how Baptized and born again Christian are supposed to do our work. This is how we are supposed to serve, and this is the task of the priesthood of believers. We are to, “[g]o therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19).
So, here’s the point. All of us who are baptized, born again, believers of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior are a part of the priesthood of believers. The priesthood of believers has a job to do. Our job is to tell the story. We have been commanded by God to tell the story. We are to tell others the story of our salvation. If you don’t know any other part of the story tell others how you came to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Then invite them to come with you as the two of you work to move from being born again baby Christians to become disciples of Jesus Christ. We are to become disciples of Jesus Christ together. We aren’t expected to be perfect. We aren’t expected to get it right all the time. We are to honest about what we don’t know, and where we fall down. We are to be honest sinners. That way together, we can grow closer to God and become honest saints.
In the name of Jesus Christ,