Every story matters.
Ever since I was a teenager Mark chapter 1 has deeply shaped my experience of Jesus. Here is this man with leprosy who has lost everything. He has lost his family, friends, and religious community. And most of all he could not be touched, nor embraced, comforted for fear that his disease would spread. He also carried around shame that it was something he did to cause his pain. In his destitute loneliness he had to wallow in his shame to stay alive. Day after day people looked past him and ignored him.
His story was ignored over and over again.
Each day he felt his shame as he fell to his knees to beg so that he could at least survive another day.
Then one day a Jewish rabbi named Jesus comes towards his direction. He doesn't look past this man with leprosy nor does he walk by. But instead reaches out his hand and touches him. In my mind this was the first healing of the leper. Jesus was restoring his dignity. He was recognizing that this man was someone who was worthy of human touch. Jesus dignified him. He saw him. His story mattered.
This story is a catalyst for the type of community we feel that God is calling us to create. The church has become in many ways a place where stories are not told but repressed for fear of judgement, condemnation, and gossip.
As a pastor I have had people tell me things about their lives that they would never tell someone else for fear that they would be just like this leper. They hid their story from the church and pretended to be someone else.
Yet the Jesus we are introduced to in Mark 1 is not one that walks by those hurting in our world. He is much more radical. Jesus sees. He hears. He touches that which the world chooses not to.
We want to embrace the beautiful gift and story that we all are. We want to be that hand that reaches out and dignifies that which the world fails to see as a beautiful mosaic of grace.
We know that it won't be an easy journey and we pray and hope that our church will be a trusting place where people can tell their stories and sense the radical love of Jesus Christ.
In out other words... your story matters.