What is an epic story? What makes an epic story epic? And how does that link to the Diocesan Convention?The Rt. Rev. Martin S. Field Eight-minute read. Resources
The diocese recently held its annual Summer Church Summit. In case you don’t know or were not able to attend, the Summit happens each August, is open to all those who worship in West Missouri churches, and presents constructive ideas for increasing the effectiveness of the witness and outreach of our parishes.
This year’s Summit focused on the needs we have individually, and as eucharistic communities collectively to prepare for our outreach ministries, such as evangelism, advocacy, charity, etc. The premise of the Summit was captured in its theme: “You Can’t Be a Beacon if Your Light Don’t Shine.” What that means is simple and at the same time complex. Unless we are formed in faith and consistently strive to personify the light of Christ, we will fall short as evangelists — as those who share the Faith — as ambassadors for Christ.
At the conclusion of the Summit, the Canon to the Ordinary, The Rev. Dr. Steve Rottgers, and I were musing about the day. It had been a good day. There was a lot of good sharing. Amid our pleasant conversation, we started to think about the attraction of epic stories. There are many epic stories, and each of us probably has a favorite.
What is an epic story? And what makes an epic story epic, rather than just a regular, old story?
An epic story is commonly recognized to be a large body of work (from literature, theater, cinema, etc.) that can be broken down into several smaller stories. The word epic is also applied to be a work that tells a heroic story or relates something courageous, intrepid, or grand. Examples of epic stories from literature would include: Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Hobbit & the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Ramayana, The Iliad, and more. The Star Wars series is a big production, epic movie with multiple sequels and a sweeping story line.
Crossing over between literary and cinematic worlds would be the aforementioned The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as well as Game of Thrones, and the Harry Potter series of books and movies.
Christian Formation is the internal, intentional process of becoming heroes. Of daily becoming more and more like our hero, Jesus.
People love these stories, and that holds true across all cultures and languages. Heroes remind folk of something big and bold and worthy of their toil and devotion. The courage and triumphs of heroes renew our values, inspire our efforts, and affirm what we understand to be true. Heroes elevate us emotionally; they heal our psychological ills; they build connections between people; they encourage us to transform ourselves for the better; and they call us to become heroes and to help others.
The reason Canon Steve and I got into this conversation is that we realize the Bible is an epic story, and the Bible presents a hero named Jesus who truly fulfills the role of hero. Let me paraphrase what I said a paragraph earlier.
Jesus reminds folk of something big and bold and worthy of their toil and devotion. The courage and triumphs of Jesus renew our values, inspire our efforts, and affirm what we understand to be true. Jesus elevates us emotionally; Jesus heals our psychological ills; Jesus builds connections between people; Jesus encourages us to transform ourselves for the better; and Jesus calls us to become heroes and to help others.
That last line — about becoming heroes — is where the message of the Summer Church Summit intersects with all my babble about heroes and epic stories. You may never have thought of it this way before, but Christian Formation (meaning what we do to build faith) is the internal, intentional process of becoming heroes. Of daily becoming more and more like our hero, Jesus. Of growing into the moral likeness of Jesus. Of letting God seep deeper and deeper into our lives so that the way we interact with the world becomes the way God interacts with the world.
This hero-building process is the only thing that provides us something to share with the individuals we meet and the world communally. If we do not have light, we cannot shine. If we are not filled with living water, we cannot give another a drink. If we are spiritually empty, we cannot guide another to spiritual life.
That is why the theme of last year’s annual, Diocesan Convention was “Called In. Sent Out. Building a Community of Purpose”. The theme recognized that we are called in to be readied to go out. We are called in for discipleship and sent out as apostles of the Good News. That’s what the Church is for. To call us in, to ready us, and to send us out. The institutional Church is not the point or the aim. Spreading the Gospel of Christ Jesus in a world that badly needs God’s love and nurture is the point and our aim.
I fell that this truth is so important that our upcoming, Diocesan Convention (November 3-4 in Springfield) will continue in the same vein with the theme: “Called In. Sent Out. One Ministry in West Missouri”.
What practices do you have in place that help you day-by-day to open yourself to God that he may seep deeper and deeper into your being? How do you unlock yourself more and more to the Holy Spirit?
And how does your parish or congregation do that? How does your Eucharistic community open itself to God? What are you doing as a community to help those who are open and seeking to deepen their faith, to be readied to serve God in the world, and more fully to respond to the call of God?
At convention, we will learn, talk, and be challenged on this subject much more. Even if you are not a delegate, you are welcome and encouraged to attend.