We love stories. Whether it’s books, movies, or Netflix binge watching; we love stories and stories move us. Stories make space for two things: our delight in the recognition of our similar experiences and the surprise in the introduction of a new reality that was not previously known. I love awkward and dorky television comedy because it normalizes my own story, and I love the surprise of deeply meaningful documentaries because they expand and challenge my perspective.
We love stories because we all have a Story; a collection of moments and experiences that shapes how we see the world, structures our viewpoint, and helps us derive meaning. Our Story is even a collection of stories; story after story strung together to make up the fabric of reality, as we know it. Story becomes the medium through which we express our reality, how we uniquely see the world; our points of transformation, the full spectrum of emotions, and what matters most to us.
Stories matter because they express what matters to us. When we share them, they give those listening a glimpse into what we have experienced, the roads we have traveled down, and the meaning that has been gleaned. Sharing stories breeds empathy between the one sharing and those listening. Empathy is the backbone of healthy, right relationships. Brene Brown says it best, “Empathy is feeling with people.” Empathy is acknowledging the story of another and making space for experiences that are different from our own.
The Story of God’s people is catalogued in scripture and it also points to what matters most. The story of the woman with the alabaster jar (Luke 7:36-50) illustrates empathy: Jesus is in the home of a Pharisee (the religious elite) dining, and in walks a woman whose Story could not have been more different from the experiences of the other guests. There were pieces of her Story that made her well known. The author of Luke names the Pharisees’ perception of her and her Story, sinner and harlot, but Jesus shifts the narrative. She comes to Jesus in a heap of emotions, and much to the surprise of his host, Jesus meets the woman in her emotion, posturing himself in a way that honors her. Jesus sees her as more than the Story that’s been assigned to her. She gifts him with the fullest expression of her grief and joy, her commingled reality of gratitude and despair, and anoints his feet with a mixture of tears and expensive perfume, vulnerably using her hair to wash his feet.
The symbolism of the messiness of this moment is not lost. Her moment with Jesus and the experience of transformation does not wash away her Story, it reframes it; new life is breathed into it. Her painful, shameful Story now includes grace, forgiveness, freedom, and connection with Jesus. The sharing of her Story in vulnerability breeds connection and transformation, and in the reframing of it Jesus challenges the perspective of the Pharisees, pressing them to expand their capacity to value others. The intersection of her Story and Jesus’ Story fuels right-relationship.
Her moment with Jesus and the experience of transformation does not wash away her Story, it reframes it; new life is breathed into it. Her painful, shameful Story now includes grace, forgiveness, freedom, and connection with Jesus.
Empathy drives connection while shame drives disconnection (Brown). Jesus responds with empathy and not with shame. We are hardwired for connection, but we so often define ourselves by the stories of shame and disconnection rather than the stories of freedom and transformation. Jesus wants to connect with us and shift the narrative. The Gospel is full of Jesus connecting; it’s full of Jesus seeing others as they are, all the joy and grief, and shifting the narrative, adding to their story, challenging perspectives, and embracing vulnerability.
We are called to do the same. Emboldened in Spirit, we are called to reach out in empathy and shift the narrative. We are called to connect and posture ourselves with empathy towards the most vulnerable, and to do so boldly as Jesus did. We are called to listen and share stories, to live a life of freedom in the Spirit that drives connections and right-relationship (holiness, with God, neighbor, and self) and freedom for others.
It is with this backdrop that we approach Sunrise Book + Coffee.
Sunrise Book + Coffee is a book and coffee shop on the PazNaz campus. Having a coffee shop is often the trendy thing to do; but it is important for us to pause for a moment and think strategically and biblically about what can happen when space to connect is made available and when holiness and story combine with a commitment to posture ourselves towards the most vulnerable.
The story of Sunrise Bookstore started with the faithfulness of Ben and Bonnie Ramirez. They planted seeds and grew something lovely on the campus of PazNaz. It is because of their faithfulness and their Story that Sunrise Book + Coffee is embarking on this new chapter.
Sunrise Book + Coffee is a place to connect, to grab a cup of coffee and meet someone new, to listen to new stories and explore new perspectives. It is also a place to value others and posture yourself towards some of the most vulnerable in our world: those who are at risk of human trafficking and labor exploitation.
Did you know: The majority of the items in the shop are fair trade or fair labor?
Every item for sale in Sunrise Book + Coffee has a story. In some cases the name of the exact person who made the item can be shared.
This matters because our own personal stories and the stories of others intersect and directly impact one another. If we are all called to follow the modeling of Jesus, to posture ourselves with empathy, to live into a life that drives freedom and connection, right-relationship, and freedom for others, then everything we do and every person we interact with matters. Our story matters because it intersects with the stories of others and, with every action we take and every dollar we spend, we are telling a story about what we value.
Sunrise Book + Coffee carries a line of jewelry made by refugees, trying to write new pages of their Story in a new community, because we value restoration. Sunrise Book + Coffee carries a line of blocks that empowers local communities toward sustainability, job creation, and education because we value human dignity. Sunrise Book + Coffee carries shirts that support local and global efforts to stop human trafficking because we value freedom from slavery. Sunrise Book + Coffee carries books because we value story, growth, and discipleship. It is furnished with tables and chairs so people can sit and engage with one another because we value vulnerability and connection. We have coffee beans that empower farmers globally, providing meaningful income and community development, because we value intentionality. Sunrise Book + Coffee exists because we value right relationship and the tangible expression of our holiness roots.
In all this, Sunrise Book + Coffee desires to press into the story of Jesus, embracing vulnerability and engaging with empathy, hoping to tell stories and make space for stories to be heard …
And to make amazing coffee.
– Pastor Faith Romasco
Questions for Reflection:
- What is your current binge-worthy book or show? What about it helps you connect to the story?
- What parts of your Story do you feel most vulnerable when telling?
- What are your favorite parts of your Story?
- Which parts of your Story do you feel like often get hidden away?
- How might God be pressing you to expand your capacity to value others?
- In your daily life, with whom might you more fully connect if you knew their Story?
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