O sing to the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. — Psalm 96:1
If I have become convinced of one thing in 28 years of ministry it is that every person has a story to tell and that it is our stories that make us who we are. They are stories, distinct and different, yet connecting us to one another under the banner of the name of the Father in whom every family, in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 3), is named. We are all formed by the circumstances we encounter, by the choices that we make, by the choices others make for us and by our responses to those choices. And whether or not we realize it, all of those pieces of the puzzle that make up “our story” are fashioned into a whole picture by the hand of the God of grace. In a world in which our diversity so easily gives way to our disharmony, and in a world where we spend so much more time and energy on what divides us than on what unites us, we need more than anything to hear each other’s stories of life within the family of our One God. I believe we can best do that by sharing our stories. Not arguing about our differing theological perspectives or our differing religious rituals but sharing our common encounters with the Holy, the God of Amazing Grace, the God and Father of us all.
Over the last 10 years I have been privileged to serve on an arm of our church that deals every day with the diversity within our Presbyterian family, that being Canada Ministries of the Life and Mission Agency. Canada Ministries offers aid and encouragement to new church developments in the Gaelic Highlands of Cape Breton as well as to a ministry to Arabic-speaking new Canadians in Mississauga, Ont., called Almanarah. It reaches into the inner cities of Canada to touch those living in boarding houses in Toronto and to peoples of our First Nations through healing circles in Vancouver. All these diverse ministries with the Presbyterian Church have their own stories to tell; stories that tell of the gracious hand of God molding and making them into what we are today. We need to hear those diverse stories to be enlivened and energized by the amazing truth that God is in our midst doing an amazing thing. “He is not in the tomb! He is risen!” (Luke 24:6)
I am enjoying this year as Moderator and the chance it gives to hear these stories from across our church and the chance to pass them along in turn. I am valuing the chance to model, in the most sincere spirit of humility, a gift God has given to me, that is the gift of listening. Our world does not need more critics who set out to tear down the thoughts of others, or more combatants who set out to crush those whom they encounter, or more egomaniacs who consider only their opinions to be worthy of consideration. We need listeners and we need them desperately! We need listeners who can hear the stories of these fellow Presbyterians who came to our country in times of highland clearances in Scotland and realize that they can share stories of grace with those Presbyterians who have found a new home in Canada, free from the persecution and hardships they knew in Egypt or China. We need listeners who can appreciate that the enthusiastic worship of Presbyterians in Malawi is just as pleasing to God as is the quiet solemnity in any one of a hundred rural Presbyterian congregations in Southwestern Ontario or Manitoba. We need listeners who can hear the sound of the Spirit wherever and whenever he makes his presence felt. We need listeners who can appreciate that the Presbyterian family is made up of all these stories which come together, becoming the one story of the family of God’s people under our One Heavenly Father. May this be the story we share together, in this month of the family, to the praise of glory of Him who lovingly calls us His own.