Yesterday I was speaking with someone who had participated in last weekend’s workshop at The Sophia Center for Spirituality about how simple, and yet how effective, the activities were. We concluded that it was a combination of the engaging manner of Jan Phillips, the presenter, that engendered trust by her honest sharing and the resultant willingness of the group members to act in like manner that carried the day. The focus of the sharing, a consistent energetic current that undergirded such success, was the life experiences of the participants and how those experiences had been transformative in some way. The genius of the process was that the transformation came from the simple exercise of speaking our truths aloud. Happy or sad, difficult or easy, long past or recent, we recounted our life events as we saw them and recognized ourselves in the eyes and hearts of the willing hearers in our midst. We found our creativity in the extraordinary poems that we wrote in 10 minutes, prompted by a series of necessarily included words like a color, a location, a body of water, a person…We moved our bodies in a simple circle dance and found it easier to do in the singing and connecting of hands and smiling eyes. In short, we realized our common humanity and celebrated our desire to reach out from that place to a world in need of our blessing and gifts.
Today’s Scripture readings are all about “talking story,” as our brothers and sisters in Hawaii call it. Philip engaged with the Ethiopian court official on the road to Gaza, explaining the words of the prophet Isaiah that led to the immediate baptism of the foreigner. (ACTS 8:26-40) The psalm response was a perfect follow-on to that experience, proclaiming: Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what the Lord has done for me. When I appealed to God in words, praise was on the tip of my tongue! (PS 66) In the gospel, Jesus took a risk testifying to his mission when he said, “I am the living bread that has come down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever…” (JN 6:44-51) Can you imagine accepting that revelation in openness? It must have been his manner of speaking and his outpouring of self that allowed the listeners’ positive response, even if understanding had to come later.
Whether “truth-telling” comes naturally to us or not, whether our life stories are peppered with ups and downs (whose are not?), my recommendation is that we take our cue from the Scriptures and risk on occasion, finding a space and a companion or two whom we trust and place ourselves into their hands. I would hope – and would wager – that the benefits will outweigh the risks.