Message from Our Pastor
Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's November 4th homily. Relevant text: John 11:32-44
Some might think that All Saints’ Sunday is an inappropriate day for Pledge Sunday. Why would we take this holy and sacred day of honor and remembering the Saints (especially those saints “who now from their labors rest”), and sully it with things as mundane, and for some, offensive as a stewardship campaign?
Let me share with you a story. This is a Seneca Indian tale about an orphan boy named Poyeshaon. I discovered this story several years ago in a book by Belden Lane called Landscapes of the Sacred; Geography and Native American Spirituality.
When Poyeshaon was old enough, his foster mother gave him a bow and some arrows, and sent him into the woods to hunt. For several days he did well, bringing back a string of birds each evening for his foster mother to cook. Each day he traveled farther into the woods. One day, he noticed the string on his bow was loose so he searched for a place to sit and tighten it. He happened upon a clearing with a great rock, its high flat top perfect for sitting.
No sooner had the boy scaled the stone than he heard it speak, offering to tell him stories. This was a magic of which he had never heard.
“What does it mean to ‘tell stories’?” the boy asked, a question, of course, no story teller, even a stone, has ever been able to resist.
Stories echoed from the depths of the stone the rest of the day, as Poyeshaon, spellbound by its craft, listened until long after night had fallen. He returned home with only a bird or two on his string, leaving the others as payment to the stone, in exchange for its tales.
Unable to resist the rock’s enchantment, Poyeshaon went back to the clearing the next day, and the next as well. When the foster mother became suspicious of his being gone so long and bringing back so few birds, she sent another boy to spy on him. But the day simply ended with two boys atop the stone, both transfixed by the tales. Soon there were four, and eventually the foster mother herself and the whole village crowding around the stone as it spun its tales.
There were stories of an ancient Seneca past, a prior world filled with little people and giants, even a creation accounting, including the role of Sky-Woman, and the origin of the colorful false faces used in ceremonial dances.
To hear their own stores told back to them was just as important as food. They learned that a people always live by tales and bread. Without either, they starve.
It is because of the stories that I dared to suggest we weave together All Saints’ Sunday and our stewardship campaign. All Saints’ Sunday is all about stories: the stories of those who have gone before us, of those we will remember by name later in the service, of those who taught us what we believe, who first brought us to the table, who taught us to pray, who taught us about Jesus, who taught us to keep our faith in the midst of tragedy, who taught us by example, and by doing, and by teaching, and by praying with and for us. These saints helped form us into the Christians that we are today.
But the stories of All Saints’ Day are not all about the past or in the past tense. You, too, are saints of the Lord and you, too, have stories to tell, faith stories about what God has done in your life. Some faith stories are as grand as a near death experience, or as a one-day-at-a-time saving grace from an addiction. Many include answers to prayers. Some are miracles, and some are only seen in hindsight. But all of us have faith stories. If faith was not in some way part of your life story, you would not be here, you would not have had your children baptized, you wouldn’t pray and you would turn elsewhere when you needed of comfort in difficult times. But here you are, your story still unfolding before you, even as you interact with, and influence, the stories of other saints, young and old.
Today we are asking you to intentionally plant some seeds of faith, through your pledge cards, through the time and talent card, through your prayers for the staff and leadership of this congregation, even through the packing of the Operation Christmas Child boxes.
Our ministry and mission here at St. Mark is all about faith stories – about our passing on our own, about walking with others in theirs, about growing both ours and theirs, about providing the fertile ground in which seeds of faith can grow and about planting seeds of faith wherever and whenever possible.
Who knows what story God is growing for us as we offer him our pennies, our songs, our bricks, our hands and our stories for his purposes in the ministry of the Lutheran Church of St. Mark. Amen.