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    Feb 22, 2015

    The God Story 1: Introduction

    The God Story 1:  Introduction

    Speaker: Rev. Vivian McCarthy, Pastor

    Series: The God Story

    Category: God's Relationship with You

    Keywords: god story, intro

    Have you ever read a great story? Have you ever read one that had a real "grabber" opening line? Join us for the introduction to The God Story.

    What are some memorable beginnings to great stories?

    It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. 

    It was a dark and stormy night.

    Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

    Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

    It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. — George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

    Mother died today. —Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942; trans. Stuart Gilbert)

    You better not never tell nobody but God. —Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)

    When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyfirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954).

    Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997).

    In the beginning…God.

    How about this one?  She was just a girl who liked music.  What do you think about that as an opening line for a good story?  Does it make you want more?

    She was just a girl who liked music.  Her mother noticed that when she listened to the record player – a Christmas gift when she was 5 – she would keep time by patting her knee.  Oh, and she would sing.  She picked up songs from the radio and at church and sang and sang and sang.

    There wasn’t a lot of money, but the girl’s parents wanted to encourage her.  They could see that music was deep in her soul, so they sought to encourage her musically.  Her mother took her to a local teacher who had a good reputation, and she was tested.  The teacher said she had ability and could be a musician.  She should play the piano.  Determined to find a way out of what seemed to be no way, her mother went in search of a used piano and found a well-loved, old upright for $25.  It cost as much to move it as to buy it, but it found a home in the family’s basement and the girl began lessons at age 7 or 8.

    I don’t remember much about those first couple of years of lessons.  But I do remember Marian Schmidt.  She was the church organist who trusted me enough to ask me to substitute for her the summer I was 12.  She wanted to take a month off for vacation.  I was just a girl who liked music.  And Marian just wanted a vacation.  But that summer when I was 12 changed my life.  It gave my love of music purpose and meaning.  It made my love of music part of God’s story.

    I think that if I was going to write the story of my life, the chapter that I just read for you might be called Music Lessons.  It was a chapter that started out simply as a time of learning more about something I loved.  It could have been about almost anything.  And though it didn’t start out to be anything more than exploring a love of music, I look back on that time in my life and see God’s hand at work – shaping me to be a teacher and even a pastor.  I had no idea, and neither did my parents.  It wasn’t dramatic.  It was just what we did.  There is no doubt in my mind that God was in it from the very start.

    Do you remember Chuck Thompson?  Chuck was the voice of the Baltimore Colts for a long time, but I knew him as the voice of the Orioles and then as a member of my last congregation.  Chuck came to church regularly, but he wasn’t what most of us would call “religious.”  We always heard him say “Ain’t the beer cold!” and when a particularly exciting play was made on the field, “Go to war, Miss Agnes!”

    Chuck had a beautiful, resonant voice – one that was immediately recognizable and could have been called a “radio voice” because of its beauty.  You know what Chuck said about his voice and his resulting career?  He would say that he was deeply blessed and that the gift God gave him in his voice was the reason that he was successful in life.  Over and over, I heard him credit God for his great life in radio.  Chuck saw himself in God’s story.

    So, what about you?  You have rich stories, too.  There are stories of how you moved into your life’s vocation.  Stories of how you met your spouse or moved to a new home – maybe even a new town.  Stories of those who have loved you or challenged you or somewhat surprisingly took an interest in you – and made your life different.  Stories of loss or sorrow.  Stories of joy and exhilaration.  Stories of your life.

    Right now, pick a time of your life.  Got it?  Now give that “chapter” a title.  It might be the time that you succeeded at something important to you – or a time when you did not succeed.  Jot the title of your chapter on the sermon brief page of your bulletin.

    Another chapter in my own life might be entitled A New Wind Is Blowing.  That’s the chapter when Terri Rae Chattin moved in with us – into our son’s room, as a matter of fact, when he was just a year old.  That little toy soldier wallpaper border looked a little silly when it became her room!  My deep friendship with Terri Rae is filled with God-experiences.  God’s fingers are all over that friendship story!  I wouldn't even have to think very hard to trace how God is in that story!

    Okay – now jot down another chapter of your life.  What was going on?  And what will you name that chapter?

    Another chapter for me might be The Big C.  I lost 2 of my grandfathers to cancer, and now we are facing cancer again with Glen – my sister’s husband – our beloved brother.  That chapter will be full of sadness and anger – as well as filled with how God walked with us through each struggle. 

    Now’s the time for us to share with each other.  As we planned for this series, we wanted to find ways for you to engage with the study, whether you participate in a group or not.  I hope that you are all using the book or will begin using it today.  It is more of a devotional book than a study book, and even if you are not in a small group, we will have an opportunity each week to share parts of our own stories – our God stories – during worship.

    There are 2 ways for you to share.  For those of you who are electronically savvy, I set up a Twitter account for us to use. 

    Twitter handle: @RUMC1777. 

    For those of you who don’t want to Tweet, in the pews you will find some index cards with a little bird so you can use a low-tech version of tweeting!  Some of you may be asking yourself why I would encourage using a cell phone during the sermon.  I don’t think I’ve lost my mind.  You may be surprised to know that I see texting going on anyway, so why not use technology for a great purpose during worship!?!

    Now’s your chance to share.  Either Tweet or write your chapter name.  If you want to add a little about the content or the characters in your story, you may do that, too.  If you are using a card, just hold it up and an usher will take it.  And as we finish the meditation and go on with the service, some of the tweets will scroll across the screen.

    When I think over the chapters of my life – over what has already happened, places where I already see God’s hand at work, feel God’s presence – I am overcome with gratitude and joy.  Looking over those dark times of sorrow or fear, I can see how God walked me through it and worked through it.  I feel secure or comforted.  Looking back over times of joy or exhilaration or success, the gratitude I feel is almost indescribable – seeing the success of a child I had the opportunity to teach; finding my path in life; the births of our children; those quiet, intimate times when I could feel my love for Rich grow deeper and stronger.  In each and every time, I see God’s influence and feel God’s encouragement.  And I am deeply grateful.  How about you? 

    In the beginning.  A great introduction to the Greatest Story Ever Told.  The introduction to the most important character in that story – and in the story of God’s people – God and God-with-us, Jesus.  Have you ever noticed that in a story that begins with nothing, God speaks?  Just as humans do, God speaks out of purpose – purposefully seeking relationship with us – with me and with you.  So, today, as we begin at the beginning of the God story – our God stories – there are 2 questions that I hope will ring in your hearts and minds today and throughout these week of Lent:

    •    What do you think God is saying to you?

    •    What do you need to say to God?

    And I hope you will take the time to answer.