The New Story by: Jim Hall
We are living in a time when all around us old stories are dying and new stories are struggling to be born. It is by story that we understand who we are, how we came to be and what we are about. We all live by story, and we are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. New story emerges in many ways—as we let go of the old story and attend to ancient wisdom, to essence, to Sabbath rest, to dream, to song, to ceremony. Mostly it emerges as we try to live it out in the midst of the old story still around us, a process often filled with risk and conflict.
It’s a wonderful thing to think about story as a container for ancient knowledge and for self-understanding, really as a container for essence. It reminds me of what Oren Lyons, faith keeper of the Onandaga nation said to Bill Moyers years ago when Bill asked him how native people managed to survive all the hardships and repression enforced upon them: “As long as there is one to speak and one to listen, one to dance and one to sing, life will go on.” Stories, songs, ceremony—containers for essence.
How does this live in us as we wonder about a viable future for the Potter’s House, for Dayspring? Will we be here four more years? Will the cash be gone in two more years? Or will we, as Ojibway teacher Thomas Peacock has said, “be here forever because we are part of a much larger story”? One can examine the stories we are living by, and those we might live by in the future, at various levels: personal, cultural, planetary. There is much to learn about how to say good-bye to old stories that no longer fit, but served us well in the past. Our smaller stories are embedded in and shaped by the larger stories around us; our stories evolve over time. Hopefully they evolve, as Franciscan priest Richard Rohr has put it, from “life is about us” to “we are about life.” Over time we are invited into larger and larger stories. The earlier stories don’t drop away completely, but are contained within the larger stories.
Jesus lived a new story in the midst of the old. Into a story about obeying religious rules and keeping commandments in order to please God, came a new story: the rules are God’s gift to us, not our obligation to God. We are invited into God’s rest and order, not required to live up to a standard placed upon us. Dayspring, as Elizabeth O’Connor described it in Call to Commitment, is a place where we can enter into the rest of God. How shall we respond to this gift? Jesus shows us a way that is about passing it on, being loving and compassionate as God has been loving and compassionate to us. Jesus goes beyond structure to essence. Structures exist to serve essence.
Two primary stories: one self-serving and the other self-giving. Jesus could have spent his time trying to revise the old story, but he didn’t. He chose to act out his own authentic story, one about self-giving love and compassion. Living the new story in the midst of a very powerful old story involves considerable risk. If we are in pursuit of Jesus, we will be always moving from our own self-serving story to a self-giving story. In essence, we will be living a love story. How, as communities of faith, will we shift our story from “life is about us” to “we are about life”? How will our New Story be at its root a love story?
Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest, said: “The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, the gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. On that day, for the second time in the history of the world, human beings will have discovered fire.”
The New Story, for Dayspring, calls us to remember why we are here on these 200+ acres of woodlands, meadows, ponds and wildlife, and to remember our strengths: our roots in the long experience of The Church of the Saviour and its ongoing expressions; our long experience with shared leadership in worship and ministry; our deep spiritual base in silence and contemplation; our ministries, including a silent retreat center, a conference center, a creative earth ministry center, a mission group devoted to holding all of Dayspring and its challenges deeply in prayer, a developing permaculture market garden and a new children-exploring-Dayspring mission.
Yes, we face operating deficits; yes, fewer people show up for worship on Sunday mornings. I acknowledge this reality, but I also immerse myself in a story of abundance. The New Story, the love story, will guide us into an awareness of abundance, gratitude and entering into the Sabbath rest of God. The New Story ends very well.
Jim Hall is co-founder of Simple Gifts, a creative earth ministry center at Dayspring Church, where he is a long-time member.