When I think of November, I think of get-togethers with family over a huge Thanksgiving feast, running into interesting people while out shopping, and conversations about thanksgiving baskets for ACTC and for the Loch Raven Network. November is always a surprise – it can be as balmy as September or as cold as February, but in the midst of it, there is always a holiday feeling – a feeling that can be wonderful or sad, depending on one’s circumstances.
I have had a lot of conversations over the last two weeks – conversations with families of the dying, conversations about ministry projects, chats with new colleagues, like David, the new Presbyterian minister across the street, and with dear, beloved colleagues who are leaving the diocese for new adventures, and whom I will miss greatly. I have talked with those who have been blessed by something St. Thomas’ has done, and I have talked with those who have been disappointed by what I, or the church has not done. Some of them have been difficult; but all have been a blessing, because each time I talk with someone, I learn something.
I am an introvert by nature, and so starting up a conversation isn’t always easy for me. Yet every time I reach out to someone and go past my comfort zone, I discover a great richness in life. Everyone has a story. Everyone has burdens they carry. Everyone has been both challenged and blessed by this journey we call life. If we take the time
to listen, we ourselves are enriched.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking to people. First he talked to his disciples, especially the twelve he chose to follow him. He also talked to women, and lepers, and the homeless, the outcasts, the rich, the poor, sinners and saints. To him they were equal. He cared neither for race or social standing, and cared more for how a person lived his or her life than whether or not they were present in the synagogue every week. His desire was to see the Kingdom of God fulfilled, so he talked to people. He taught them about love, and hope, and God. And he listened. And listened. And listened some more.
I hope that we can become more like Jesus each day we walk this earth. Is that possible? Yes. We grow like the person we spend time with. People say couples look alike after many years of marriage. They grow more alike in some ways, while still keeping their own personalities. This is how we become more like Jesus. We read about him in the gospels. We talk to him as we have our daily devotions. We talk about him to others. And we listen to the faith stories of other people, even as we are willing to share our own.
This Thanksgiving, as you gather with family or friends, consider taking the time to listen to someone else’s story. Move beyond the things that you know or share often, and venture into the unknown – ask someone to tell you about their life. Perhaps you will have an opportunity to share your story as well.
It might not seem like it, but these conversations, these times of listening and telling stories, has a name. Its a name most of us are afraid of. Its name is that “E” word we all hate. Evangelism. We tell our faith stories. We listen to others, whether their stories are faith filled or not. We find things in common. Share your story this month.
And share your time with someone. Just a little of your time can make a huge difference to someone who needs a friend, or needs to get something off their chest. In doing so, you are helping to bring the Kingdom of God.
Rev. Loree Penner