This evening we are hosting a conversation at the Mustard Seed House with satirical author Becky Garrison. She will be discussing her book Jesus Died for This? which is an interesting blend of her personal story, worldwide pilgrimage and struggles intermingled with reflections on faith. I am really looking forward to hearing more of her stories of encounters from around the world. What really caught my attention this morning was her personal story, and the stories of her ancestors some of whom had journeyed to North America on the Mayflower.
Story matters, I thought as read this. It matters to us, to others and to God. And its importance goes far beyond our own daily struggles in ways that I don’t think we fully understand.
As well as looking through Becky’s book this morning I was rereading a book that few will read – it is written by my uncle Harry Katrakis to document his own personal journey as well as that of his parents and grandparents who came to Australia from Greece in the early 1900s. But his story is my story too and as I read through his book I learned about some of the events and challenges that are woven into my history and the fabric of who I am becoming.
I think it is important for all of us to document our stories so that those who come after us know not just where they came from but also where God has been at work in their families. I knew for example that one of my great uncles was a Greek Orthodox priest. I did not know that he came to Sydney because of his knowledge of Arabic and the request for a priest “to help the Greeks live in harmony with the Syrians” Even then the church was concerned about harmony between cultures and perhaps I mused this is part of the reason I too love to work for harmony and understanding between conflicted cultures.
No wonder the Bible pays such attention to detail about who begat whom and who lived where. Story matters not just to us and our families but also to God. It has relevance in the history of our world even when it seems small and insignificant. Who we are as God’s people is rooted in the stories of our ancestors.
One of the things I love about stories of the Irish saints is that though they travelled far and wide, often heading off without any sense of where they were going or they they would see their homelands again, they never lost their love for home and the culture that had formed them. Even today we see traces of Irish culture in unexpected places because of these travels. A village in the heart of Bavaria for example that celebrates an Irish festival every year as a reminder of the Irish saints that established a chapel there back in the 8th century.
Entering into the story of God means entering into the stories of our families. Discovering who we are meant to be means uncovering who our families have been in the past. They are part of our cloud of witnesses, surrounding us, cheering us on waiting in anticipation for that day when Christ will return and we will once again be one family.