Author Name: Rev. Kris Linner Book: Women and The Word: Ten Narratives On Godís Word
Q. Pastor Linner, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A. I was ordained in 1987 in the church where my faith was nurtured and nourished as a child and where I currently serve as Pastor of Care Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota. For sixteen years I served as a hospital, hospice and long term care chaplain where I developed a passion for ministry with the dying and grieving.
Q. In your writing you demonstrate that the narrative stories in the Bible can be closely linked to the stories of our lives.
A. Let me share with you an example of a present day story that can be linked to the Biblical narrative.
Wrapped in a cocoon of shame, Joan would not let anyone see her inner self. It had been battered and beaten by lifeís hardships, abuse and addiction. She had never known unconditional love. Otherís negative messages had convinced her that she was of no value. She believed she was worthless and unlovable. She thought she deserved the abuse of family members and male companions.
I believe that the story of Jesus interacting with the woman at the well speaks of releasing the beautiful butterfly of a woman trapped in a cocoon of shame. She drank deeply from the well of Godís unconditional love that she discovered in her encounter with Jesus.
Q. Can Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus bring comfort to those who grieve the death of their loved ones?
A. When my brother died in a tragic accident, it was the story of Jesus weeping with Mary and Martha at the grave of Lazarus, which brought me comfort. Although some comfort came from the hope of the resurrection, it was the story of Jesusí weeping which made Godís presence concrete. I knew my brother was in heaven, but the pain of grief was never being able to interact with him on earth. So, it was helpful for me to know that Jesus knew the depth of my pain first hand. I trusted that God was with me in the anguish of grief.
Q. Do the stories of Jesus healing demons help or do they make people wonder why Jesus does not answer their plea for help?
A. The story of Jesus healing demons reminds me of Susanís story.
Susan did not like to talk about her sonís struggle with mental illness because she wondered if people would judge her capability as a mother. She was desperate to find him help, but was at her witsí end. Doctor after doctor would prescribe a new medication. It worked until her son decided that he did not need it. The cycle would begin again. No job, no place to live, no contact. Days turned to months of wondering where he was which tormented Susan.
Q. As a follow up: Do the stories of Jesus healing demons help Susan or do they make her wonder why Jesus doesnít answer her plea for help?
A. In the biblical narrative of the woman who brought her daughter to Jesus, the daughter was healed. Susan, like many others know, healing does not always happen in the way or time frame that we would hope. However, the mother who begged Jesus to heal her daughter teaches us about persistence, persistence in faith, in prayer and in hope.
Susan does wonder why God does not answer her plea. She lives in the psalms of lament. However, like the psalmists who have more questions than answers, she also trusts that God is with her in the midst of her asking the hard questions of life.
Q. Mary and Martha each had their own strengths. How can the story of Mary and Martha help women discover what motivates them?
A. I have always read the story of Mary and Martha as a condemnation of Martha who is always doing. However, recently I have read the story by looking at each oneís strengths. If Martha was indeed using her strengths to serve, then maybe Jesus was saying, ďMartha, Mary has her gifts and she is using them by quietly learning. Let her be who she is and you need to be who you were created to be. Martha you get things done. So get things done for Godís glory and let Mary glorify God in her way.Ē
However, if Martha was trying to fill the hole in her soul by always being busy, then maybe Jesus was asking her to really look at herself and to discover what was motivating her frantic behavior.
This story asks people to explore what are there strengths and how those strengths can be used in Godís kingdom.
Q. Can the Biblical stories of healing bring hope to peopleís desperate situations today?
A. Dorothy knew the kind of physical pain that made one cry out, ďEnough is enough. I just canít take anymore.Ē Her chronic pain had robbed her of the life she once knew. It ate away her self-esteem, as she could no longer care for herself. It diminished her social life as friends stopped calling to invite her along. It challenged her faith, as her prayers for healing seem to fall on deaf ears. It changed her positive attitude into embittered negativity.
Dorothyís story sounds like the story of the woman in the bible who had been crippled for 18 years. That is a long time to be in pain! Some people are crippled by chronic pain, by the burdens of stress, from the heaviness of guilt or by the challenges of doubt, but Jesusí love has the power to heal our aching bodies, emotions and spirits.
I do believe that the Biblical narratives do connect with our stories. Godís story and our stories are closely intertwined. God did bring comfort, hope and healing to people in the biblical narratives and God does bring comfort, hope and healing to the pain, hardship, doubt and distress in our lives today.