Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

We Have a Gospel To Proclaim – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Feast of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Companions of St. Paul

Isaiah 52: 7-10
Psalm 23
Mark 16: 15-20

I had one of those aha moments on Sunday night which keeps reverberating through me. I had flown up from Boston earlier in the day and was staying with my sister and her family. That night my brother and his family came for dinner. The nine of us sat around the dining room table that had once been in my parents’ dining room. We laughed a lot. We caught up on each other’s news. We talked about the upcoming wedding of one of my nephews. We told stories. We exchanged news about my other siblings and their families, who weren’t at dinner that night. And we laughed some more. It was a great evening. Everyone went home or up to bed that night knowing something important had happened.

What happened on Sunday over good food, good wine and good company was that my family was re-membered. The disparate parts of the body were brought together and reconnected through food, wine and story. We reminded ourselves who we are, not as individuals, but as a family. We reminded ourselves who we belonged to and from where we had come.

Discovering who we are and where we belong are a part of the human experience. A sense of identity is crucial, not simply for the individual but for a community as well. I need to know who I am as a person, but also how I relate to others as a member of a family, a community, a nation and the world.

We do that individually and collectively in a number of ways, but one of the most significant ways, at least for me, is by telling stories. I know who I am, or at least I remember who I am, when I tell stories about myself. That’s why Sunday night was so important. As a family we remembered who we are. It wasn’t just a collection of individuals around that table. It was a family, a group of people with a common story, a common history, and a common identity. And by telling the stories, which we have told one another dozens of times before, we initiated another generation into the story.

What happened around that dining room table is no different, and no less significant, than what is happening around this Table tonight. Over food, wine and story we are reminding ourselves, even re-membering ourselves, as individuals and as a community. Once again we remind ourselves as we re-member ourselves,who we are and to whom we belong. By telling the stories of parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins my family remembered and was re-membered. By telling those stories we were made one, and in being made one, we were made whole. By telling the story tonight of Jesus and Timothy and Titus we are reminded and re-membered, as individuals and as a community. We remember again who we are and to whom we belong. And in being reminded and re-membered we are made one, and made whole.

But our stories do more that give us a sense of identity or a feeling of belonging. They also inspire us with vision, drive us with purpose and fill us with hope.

What gives us an identity, what shapes us into a family or a community, what inspires us with vision, what drives us with purpose, what fills us with hope, is our story. That is as true if we are talking about Grandma Koester, or Aunt Dorothy, or Cousin Taylor or if we are talking about Jesus, or Timothy or Titus. Our stories have power.

We say in our monastic Rule of Life in the chapter on Hospitality:

Just as we enrich our guests’ lives, so they enrich ours. We welcome men and women of every race and culture, rejoicing in the breadth and diversity of human experience that they bring to us. Their lives enlarge our vision of God’s world. The stories of their sufferings and achievements and their experience of God stir and challenge us. If we are attentive, each guest will be a word and gift of God to us.[1]

Our stories have the power to stir, challenge, inspire and convert us. They have the power to shape our identity, inspire us with vision, drive us with purpose and fill us with hope. That is what happened to me on Sunday night as I was reminded and re-membered. It is no less than that which is happening tonight. We gather here to remember who we are and whose we are, as individuals and as the beloved daughters and sons of God. And we do that by telling once again the story of Jesus and how he changed the lives of people like Timothy and Titus.

Like Timothy and Titus, we have a story to tell and a gospel to proclaim. We have a story to tell and a gospel to proclaim of how Jesus has changed our lives.

Like Timothy and Titus, like Paul, like Mary Magdalene, like countless others before us, Jesus has come to us to bring good news, release tocaptives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. His proclamation of release, recovery and redemption is for us as much as it was for those gathered in Nazareth’s synagogue so many years ago.[2]

It was this story of release, recovery and redemption that compelled and propelled Mary Magdalene from the Empty Tomb to the Upper Room that first Easter Morning. It was that story of release, recovery and redemption that compelled and propelled Paul from Damascus, to Jerusalem and finally to Rome and his martyrdom. It was that story of release, recovery and redemption that compelled and propelled Timothy and Titus to follow the command Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.[3]Like them, the story of Jesus has the power to compel and propel us to the ends of the earth.

Our stories have power. They have the power to shape our identity, inspire our vision, drive us with purpose and fill us with hope. When we forget our story, we not only forget who and whose we are, but we lose our vision, wander aimlessly in the desert, and get hopelessly lost.

On Sunday, gathered around the dinner table with my family, I was reminded who I was as a Koester. Today, gathered around this Table with this family, I am reminded who I am as a Christian, or in the words of the Prayer Book catechismas a member of Christ, a child of God and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.[4]

Knowing my story gives me an identity. It also gives me a vision and a purpose and a hope. As individuals you and I all have stories to tell. As Christians we have a gospel to proclaim. That gospel gives us an identity. It shapes our vision. It renews our purpose. It fills us with hope. As an individual I can tell you who I am by telling you my story. As Christians we can remind ourselves who we are by telling one another the story of Jesus and how he has brought to each of us the good news of release, recovery and redemption.

We all have stories to tell. Some of those stories are funny, while others are sad. Some will remind us who we are as individuals or members of a particular family while others will remind us who we are as Christians. In either case, stories, any story, indeed every story is sacred because they have the power to shape, inspire, drive and fill our identities, our vision, our purpose and our hope.

It’s for that reason that Jesus commands his disciples to go and tell; it is for that reason that Isaiah reminds us

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ [5]

It for that reason that Paul asks us:

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’[6]

You and I have a story to tell and a gospel to proclaim. But the story isn’t just about how Jesus brought release, recovery and redemption to people like Timothy and Titus. The story we have to tell is about ourselves and how Jesus has brought the gospel of release, recovery and redemption to our lives. When we tell that story of what Jesus has done for us, we will discover again who and whose we are; our vision will be renewed; our purpose restored; our hope filled and our feet blessed. For when we tell the story of what Jesus has done for us, then we will be the ones announcing peace, bringing good news, announcing salvation and proclaiming that God reigns.


 

[1]SSJE Rule of Life: Hospitality, page 69

[2] See Luke 4: 16-21

[3] Mark 16:15

[4]Book of Common Prayer, 1959, Canada, Catechism

[5] Isaiah 52:7

[6] Romans 10: 14, 15

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