Reading as Transformation

by Carolyn Moomaw Chilton

One of my favorite pieces of scripture is 1 Peter 2:10 “Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people…”

Once I was on my own, but now I am with God and God’s people.

Somewhere back in my past, I finally got this. I think it might have been during an EfM theological reflection on some piece of the Abraham saga.  You know the line…”a wandering Armenian was my father.”    Bing – the light bulb went off!   Abraham and Sarah are in my family tree.  It’s my story too.   Bing – it’s your story too…those two codgers are in our family trees and in our DNA.

Reading the Bible reminds me of this all the time.  When I read it as God’s invitation to me to find my place in the story, I am always surprised and humbled.  I heard Eboo Patel (Founder and Director of Interfaith Youth Corps), speak recently.  He talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan, and how it was the foreigner, the Samaritan, who stopped to help the man by the side of the road.  The Samaritan didn’t just cross the physical road to help; he crossed the road of diversity. “How do we bless across lines of difference?” Patel asked.  It seems to me that to ask, let alone answer, such questions, we have to put ourselves in the place of the characters in the story.  “When have I been ignored, left by the side of the road?  When have I done the ignoring, leaving others by the side of the road?” Reading scripture as my story and God’s story is transformational.

I have recently read The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana.  It too was transformational.  The author writes:

“The Sheikha has memorized every single word of the Quran, so that I sometimes feel that she contains it.  Often when she discovers a new meaning of a word in the Quran, I have a sense that her entire interior self is slightly shifting, like a plate moving beneath the ocean of her being.  For her, reading is not just about who she is, but is also about who she will become.  …  Every time I confront two different versions of a story, in the end I ask myself, ‘What is the story that I want to contain?’  (pg. 205)

What stories do you contain?  How are you open to transformation through stories?

May all our readings in Lent be transformational.  May the stories contain us, and may we contain them.

“Once we were no people, but now we are God’s people.”

Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs (Nellie’s Garden) as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.

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