Posted by: revtc | March 16, 2009

Finding a way into God’s Story.

Some years ago, Eugene Peterson wrote a terrific book called, “Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work”. When I was on Retreat at about this time last year, I was reading Peterson’s book. One of the chapters is on Story-Making that uses the book of Ruth. In it, Peterson writes about how peoples’ lives contribute to the Great Story of God and his creation. And the interesting thing for me about the way he uses the story of Ruth is that, as far as the elected people of God (the Hebrews) were concerned, Ruth was an outsider. She was not a Hebrew woman, though her mother-in-law was. But strangely, Ruth is brought into the story of God because she chose to align herself, through hopelessness and desperation primarily, to her mother-in-law and become as one of the Hebrew people, albeit a desperately poor one.

But the amazing thing is that God draws Ruth into his peoples’ story in such a way that by the end of the story she has become the great-grandmother of King David, and therefore, a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ himself!

This got me thinking about us at St Luke’s-in-the-High Street, and the people who would be considered ‘outsiders’ of St Luke’s. Who among the outsiders with whom we have some relationship might God be planning to use in some way that we simply can’t foresee? Who among the outsiders is willing, for whatever reasons, to allow themselves to get caught up in the story of God in Walthamstow’s High Street? And, how open are we for that to happen….? How much of God’s story, and our mission, do we (un)consciously expect outsiders to know and subscribe to before we allow them to take part with us?

Occasionally, we have people who aren’t Christians, do a shift on the Stall. They have some idea of what we’re about, but in all integrity, wouldn’t call themselves committed Christians. However, they believe in the value of the community-building that we’re doing and want to align themselves to that part of the story, at least. Many of the other stall-holders say how much they like coming to the Walthamstow Farmers’ Market because of the ‘good spirit’ about it. So, I wonder about how many of these ‘outsiders’ of St Luke’s are wanting to align some part of their story with ours.

Peterson continues to follow the idea of ‘people getting into the story’ by talking about the different ways they do that. In the book of Ruth, Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, got into it by complaining bitterly about the raw deal she was handed by God. Ruth got into it at a crucial moment when she didn’t do what Naomi said she should do, but instead took her own initiative and spoke her own words to Boaz (her future husband). And Boaz got into the story by being a man of strength, integrity, and substance who used his wealth to be a blessing to others, rather than primarily pleasing himself.

Now, Peterson is helpful here by saying that the pastor’s role is not to assign anyone their own role in the story with particular lines to say. Rather, the pastor’s role is to help people get into the story of God by being who they are, doing the things that are appropriate for them, and by responding to the others who are in the story.

There’s a great freedom in this, and a deep respect for who people are. There’s also a great risk, as people often don’t behave as we would want them to. And again, my mind turns to the Farmers’ Market and how I might encourage people to get into God’s story. I think the key thing is to allow peoples’ integrity to be fundamental in finding ways in. If they want to get in, then help them to find ways in that are truly meaningful to them. Because its where people are genuinely interested and passionate, that they become fully alive. And who knows where that might lead to in the future development of God’s story!

Lord, help us notice how people are wanting to align themselves with your Story, and how to encourage them into your Story in deeply meaningful ways that will bring them the abundant life you call us all to. Amen.



  1. […] a really insightful post by my friend Tony Cant over at St Luke’s in the high street here. […]

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