by Tiffany C. Chaney

The Bible records countless times crowds gathered around Jesus, and times when individuals came to learn from him and to be healed by him. How did they know to show up? They didn’t read a post about Jesus that went viral on social media. Jesus didn’t have flyers up in the local coffeeshop. They likely showed up because someone they knew shared their story.

Mark 1:21-28 tells the story of Jesus, early in his ministry, teaching on the sabbath in Capernaum. There he encounters a man with an unclean spirit, which Jesus banishes from the man. And then, verse 28 says, “At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.” Jesus’ fame spread because the people who had gathered that day in the synagogue and shared the good news of the teacher, of the healer, they had encountered. As a result, the people around them wanted to encounter Jesus too.

In Mark 5:24b-34, Jesus is on his way to save a young girl’s life. As the crowd pressed in on him, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years took the risk of going into the crowd where she knew she wasn’t welcome, according to the rules the community lived by. She did so because she believed Jesus could heal her.

When we tell our stories, we strengthen and encourage those around us . . . and I believe we strengthen ourselves too.

She had not watched a YouTube video of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand. The teachings of Jesus were not on Kindle for her to read in her free time. How did she know to follow the crowd to see Jesus that day? Mark 5:27 said she had heard about Jesus. That’s how she knew it was worth it for her to be among the crowd that day.

This woman, according to the Levitical standards of her time, would have been ritually unclean, untouchable. So who told her about Jesus? Perhaps someone had been willing to put their own concerns aside to go share a word of hope with her. By sharing what they knew about Jesus, they participated in God’s plan for healing this woman.

Sharing the story, one person at a time
Recently I was at the local university, meeting with graduate students in a Christian fellowship group. One student talked about hearing from another student about some things they had been dealing with lately. He told the group that he was able to tell his classmate about his own struggles and how his faith sustained him in the midst of them. He said to his friends around the table, “We’re not ordained or anything, but we do have a story to tell and we can pray for each other, support each other.”

He is right. We all have a story to tell about our encounters with Jesus. Faith conversations are not limited to those who have been to seminary. When we tell our stories, we strengthen and encourage those around us . . . and I believe we strengthen ourselves too.

The students in the fellowship group that day shared stories of financial worries and unexpected provision; stories of struggling with confidence in class, continuing to work hard, and later realizing they were as good as everybody else; stories of maintaining healthy relationships in school. They shared how they experienced God at work in their lives. They shared their faith stories.

How has God called you to participate in God’s mission by sharing your faith story? Who would benefit from a word of hope from you today? Who would be encouraged by hearing about the ways the Lord has shown up in your life? Have you ever shared how God is active in your life? Have you ever shared with someone about God’s love? Have you ever invited someone to see God active in their life as well?

By simply sharing our stories, we participate in the plan of God. With whom do you sense God calling you to share your faith story today?

Discussion questions:

1. Who has shared their faith story with you over the years? How has it nurtured your faith?
2. What story do you have to share? Write it out. It may help you become more comfortable with telling your story to others.
3. Sometimes sharing our story can feel very vulnerable. Are you willing to become vulnerable in order to share your faith with someone else? (If vulnerability is a struggle for you, check out Brene Brown’s TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.”)

Closing prayer

Gracious and loving God, as unique as we all are, so are our stories. Each story is intricately woven with the fine details of life, seasoned with memories – some pleasant, others not so pleasant. In every detail, every memory, every element of our story, you are present. As we share our faith, we witness to your ever-present, ever-faithful, ever-loving accompaniment on our journey. Help us, Lord, to share our faith stories in ways and with people who might come to know you all the more as a result of our witnessing. Show us those with whom you would like us to connect. Thank you for those you have sent to share their stories with us. Together, all our stories are a part of your story, for which we are grateful. Amen.

The Rev. Tiffany C. Chaney is pastor and mission developer of Gathered by Grace, a synodically authorized worshiping community of the ELCA, serving the cities of Montgomery and Tuskegee in Alabama.