12/30/18--Christmas 1  “Telling Our Story” 

Rev. Jon Greene, Deacon

Grace Episcopal Church Radford, VA


Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7

John 1:1-18

Psalm 147 or 147:13-21               


I like to think of Holy Scripture as THE great story.

And the four Gospels, for me, are the greatest part of THE great story.

 But it is fair to say, that of the four Gospels, John’s  is NOT the best story. 

The passage we see today is what suffices for John as the Christmas story. 

In Luke we hear a rich and detailed story of a census, a pregnant Mary and a dutiful Joseph journeying to Bethlehem, no room at the Inn, a babe laid in a manger, shepherds, and angels.

Matthew tells us of a star, Wisemen, Herod, and exile to Egypt.

 John has none of this.

 John is, however, the poet of the Gospelers.  And he plays with metaphors like none of the others.

 In 18  short versus today, he refers to the Christ as “the Word”, which is in truth more than a metaphor, and as “life” and as “the light”.

 Last week when Kathy preached she talked about “the light of the Christ child” and we all knew EXACTLY what she was talking about. 

 That’s because John’s “story” from today had been shared with us over the years, allowing us the opportunity to share the story of Christ as the light of the world. If we had forgotten John’s Christmas story our story would be diminished—even though, in literary terms, John’s Christmas story may not be a very good one.

 I’d like to tell you about two stories that have been forgotten, one in my family—one in the Episcopal Church.

 My Mother, who just turned 100 in September, was born in a small town north of Rochester, New York.

 My parents moved to Arizona long before I was born (which is another story) and I hadn’t been out to visit New York since I was a baby.  

 When I was nine my Mom made plans for us to fly to Rochester for a visit. 

 I was really excited.  I was going to get to meet my Mom’s family and, in particular my grandmother and Aunt that lived on the family farm.

 When we arrived I met Grandma and my Aunt and then I was introduced to my Uncle Joe.

 Wait a minute, I thought…I have an Uncle Joe?

 I had heard his name mentioned, but had never talked to him on the phone and I had no idea he was my Mom’s brother.

 It turns out that Joe had literally fallen off a wagon as a young child. He was head injured and developmentally delayed as a result.

 So my family ceased talking about him.

 They were kind, but, as I look back, dismissive of Joe.

 But Joe took me under his wing and showed me the old barn.  He told me the function of the dozens of rusted and mysterious tools that hanged on the barn walls.

 He took me to the root cellar with canned quinces and cherries and apples and took me to the farm down the road with a creek I could play in and let me play with his dog.

 All quite exotic stuff for a kid growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix who really only knew the “outdoors” as the Arizona desert.

 My life and experience were enriched by spending a week or so with my Uncle, even though in my family he was referred to as “retarded’ and was invisible.

 This is an untold story in my family, there are also untold stories in our own Church.

  One of these is the story of a remarkable woman by the name of Pauli Murray.

 I’d like to see a show of hands, have any of you heard of her?

 I, too, had not until this year…until I was exposed to a wonderful book by the name of “Proud Shoes” that she wrote about her family.

 It is a remarkable story of race, racism and pride that still has me pondering. 

 Pauli was born in a mixed race family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where mixed race immediately got you pegged as “black”.

 An extremely bright student, she applied to University of North Carolina law school after graduating from Hunter College in New York, but was declined because of her race.

 She attended Howard University and got her law degree there.

 She then applied to Harvard for a law fellowship and was declined because of her sex.

 As a result, she applied, was accepted and attended Stanford Law School for her fellowship.

 She was a civil rights activist and argued cases for civil and women’s rights.

 She was appointed by President Kennedy to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

 She was a founding member of the National Organization of Women.

She was one of the first women and THE first woman of color ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1977.

She published two autobiographies that received critical acclaim and a volume of poetry.[1]

Truly an amazing and resilient human being.

And as I read about her this spring I thought, “What a remarkable woman, why have I never heard about her?”

The answer is, of course, that she was a woman and that she was classified as “black”.

The story of the Episcopal Church and of our society is diminished because it hasn’t included Pauli Murray.

Why did my family not talk about my Uncle Joe?

The answer, of course, is that he was head injured.  Perhaps he was seen as ‘embarassing’.  Certainly, he was marginalized.

My family story is diminished because we didn’t include my Uncle Joe in our story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the people that have been marginalized, the stories that have not been told in my family (there are others), in our church and in our society. 

What stories have we lost or forgotten…

About the city of Radford?

About Grace?

A number of you have expressed to me your desires to grow as a church.  I believe the first thing that we have to do is to be able to tell our story.

The story of how we came to the Episcopal Church, how we came to Grace Church

…and why we stay.

And we need to weave in the story of the weak, the poor and the marginalized.

You see God’s story is not the story of how the rich and the powerful, or even the middle class, are the people of God. 

God’s story is the story of how the marginalized are.

Like the small nation of Israel that is unfortunate enough to find itself at the crossroads of and victimized by great civilizations like the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Assyrians and the Roman Empire.

Like the illegitimate son of a simple craftsman that was born in a barn, wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger.

That truly insignificant and marginalized child is the light and life of the world.  The Word made flesh.

 What an amazing story.



[1] Pauli Murray, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauli_Murray retrieved 29 December 2018.b