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August 2011, “I love to tell the story…”

I love to tell the story,
‘twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.

There is nothing quite like a great story. This morning as I sat down to write this column for the Mountain Echo, the front page of the Burlington Free Press carried a story about “Magic at the Museum: A Harry Potter Evening,” an event held at the Shelburne Museum on the eve of the local theater release of the final Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” Among other things, the article reported midnight showings of the film, including 10 sold-out overnight shows at the Majestic 10 Theater in Williston. Now you may or may not think the Harry Potter series tells a great story, but lots of people do, including my seven year-old granddaughter who could hardly put down book number five (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) during the whole time she was with us last week.

At the heart of the Christian faith and life there is a truly great story—“The Greatest Story Ever Told,” to borrow the title of the 1965 epic film, starring Max von Snowden as Jesus. The film was clearly not the greatest film ever made, but the title speaks to a certain reality with which Christians resonate. At least I do! The story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, set in the context of larger narrative of God’s story of salvation history, is the foundational, formational story of my life and faith as a Christian. It is, of course, not the only foundational or “great” story of religious life and faith, and many other people resonate with a different faith narrative. For me, however, it is this story, the “old, old story of Jesus and his love” that has shaped my life and continues to be my source of confidence, guidance and inspiration.

“I Love to Tell the Story” is the theme of our 2011 Diocesan Convention. I chose this theme for several reasons, but chief among them is my concern that many people, including some in the congregations of our diocese, have lost their connection with that story, or don’t know it well, or simply don’t spend enough time
engaging the written and living expression of that “old, old story.” I don’t say that in a judgmental way, but rather out of a conviction that those of us for whom this story is foundational need to know it more deeply and tell it more boldly—and I include myself among that number. We need to know it and tell it not just for our own sakes but for the sake of those who may have never heard the story, or who may have only heard bits and pieces of it, or who might have heard a dis-
torted version of it, or who might have put that story on the back shelves of their lives.

The story of Jesus and his love is a powerful story of relationship, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, reconciling justice, servant love, and salvation. It is a story that embraces us, challenges us, inspires us, strengthens us and ultimately sets us free to love with the same unconditional love God has for us. It is the story of divine incarnation, of “God with us,” of a love so deep, so broad, so high that it seems beyond our wildest dreams that we could be so loved. It is a compelling story of offering, sacrifice, blessing and goodness. I do love to engage the story. I love to read it, pray it, study it, tell it and live it.

With this as the theme of our 2011 Diocesan Convention, I am hoping that each one of us will discover new and renewed energy for engaging God’s Good News story. I hope we will immerse ourselves in the story. I hope that each member and each congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont will make a renewed commitment to read and study the biblical narrative that recounts and proclaims this sacred story. I hope vestry meetings, committee meetings, and all small group gatherings in our congregations will include an opportunity to read and reflect on a portion of this story. I hope our preachers and teachers will bring the story to life for others, including our children and young people. I hope we will help each other make connections between God’s story and our various stories. I hope we will tell the story to others, especially those who may have never heard it. Above all I hope we will live the story in such a way that God’s reconciling love is evident in all we do and say. I believe the renewal and future of our church will be blessed if we do.

The story of Jesus and his love is indeed an “old, old story.” At the same time it is a story that is being made new everyday in the lives of those who love to tell it and live it. Our lives are hallowed because of this story. I love to tell it. How about you?

Faithfully yours,
+Thomas
[Find the hymn and music here.]

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