I love to tell the story / of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, / of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story / because I know it’s true;
it satisfies my longings / as nothing else could do.
I love to tell the story / ‘twill be my theme in glory
to tell the old, old story / of Jesus and his love.
You might recognize the text above as the beloved hymn “I Love to Tell the Story.” Published in 1869 with text by English missionary Katherine Hankey and tune by William G. Fischer, this hymn has been a staple for Sunday Schools, and it remains a favorite for many people to this day. It is certainly a favorite here at Trinity, as it tied for the top spot in last year’s Favorite Hymns Summer based on the number of people who requested the hymn. As much as we collectively love this hymn, though, it can be difficult for us to take its text to heart. We love the old, old story of Jesus and his love. We love to hear and read that old, old story in worship. We love to sing that old, old story in the hymns every week. But Katherine Hankey’s words really up the ante and push us out of our hearing/reading/singing comfort zone to wrestle with a challenging question: Do we really love to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love?
Historically, Lutherans have often been reserved, quiet people when it comes to the evangelistic mission of the church--that is, sharing our faith with others and telling the old, old story of Jesus and his love. We have been (and often still are) more likely to show people Jesus’ love rather than to tell them about it. For instance, Lutherans have shown Jesus’ love in their communities through social service agencies like Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and MOSAIC, operating schools and hospitals, and by feeding hungry people through programs like Canton Meals on Wheels. We love getting in the trenches and serving others as God works through our hands.
But things change for us in a hurry when we begin to tell in our own words the old, old story of Jesus and his love. We can easily become anxious, worrying about what we should say, how we might say it, and what our next move might be if our message is rebuffed or not understood. Telling the story is a different ball game than our more comfortable activities like worship and Bible study.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, I am excited to embark with you this year on a journey toward greater confidence and comfort with sharing our faith with others. That will be a focus of my preaching this year as we work through the Gospels of Mark and John, two great storytellers of their own accord. Telling the story will also be a focus of Adult Forum classes, and perhaps even part of this year’s Lent services.
I am unsure as of right now what all we will be doing, but what I do know is that it will be an exciting time of nurturing faith that we can share with others around us. Let us all learn day by day how we might love to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love!
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Pastor Micah Garnett has been our Pastor since 2016. He grew up in York, PA and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. He enjoys worship, working with social services in Fulton County, writing hymns, and spending time with his family.