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If we were to look for ourselves on a biological wall chart of the world, amongst the dogwood trees and hermit crabs and long-tailed marmots, we would find ourselves under the Latin label Homo sapiens, meaning "wise humans."

But it has since been suggested that perhaps we are better characterized as Homo narrans - story-telling humans. To a great extent, the life we lead, the choices we make, the meaning we seek and the meaning we find depends on the narratives we are told and the narratives we tell ourselves.

We all know the power of a family story to inspire us to action, in ways large and small. Perhaps you have found the courage to persevere through a hard domestic situation because your dad told you about his dad’s struggles in early married life. Or perhaps you cross the road to avoid shopping at a certain grocery store because of your mother’s high indignation when she told you about the time they short-changed her in 1972.

The impact of a family story is immense. We have learned that even crows manage to pass down to their young their own annoyances about specific human beings who have done them wrong.

The impact of story on our body, mind and spirit is multi-generational, spanning centuries and oceans. Tonight we have come to hear again the story of the ancestors of our faith, who gathered around a table with Jesus of Nazareth for what would be their last meal together before his death on the cross. By word and by deed, in these final moments of domestic privacy, he tried to convey to them, and to us, the essence of his deepest longing. That we humans love each other. That we serve each other, even and especially in the most humble of ways.

This is the story that we have inherited. This is the story that we need to hear again and again, and to tell again and again, if we are truly to be formed by it. God knows, there are a thousand other stories that are competing for our loyalty. Advertisers, politicians, ideologues - all have a version of reality to sell us that prioritizes an agenda of their own making. If we’re lucky, some aspects of their agenda will overlap with God’s agenda: the vast majority won’t. Most will have us harking to the false gods of earthly power, physical beauty, perceived superiority, or economic security at the expense of others or the environment.

Every day, many times a day, we choose whose story to believe. We choose which story to tell. We choose whose narrative to trust. This has always been the case; in recent times, however, the complexity of choice in this regard has become overwhelming. What seems a fact to one person is a fable to another. And now add to that confusion the deep fake videos and artificial intelligences that are fabricating a whole new level of narrative almost indistinguishable from reality.

There is an antidote to unsettling times, and that is to turn with confidence to the story we know to be true. The story that has borne fruit from age to age to age; the good news of the gospel that continues to attract hearts and minds even when we Christians haven’t always done it justice. Tonight we will hold in our hands the bread that has been shared from Jesus’ table to ours. We will wash each other’s feet as a tangible sign of our obedience to his command to love each other. We will sit in silence as we see the altar stripped bare, and feel the tearing grief of betrayal and loss.

Our faith calls us to be witness to these stories, and to embody them. When we leave here tonight, we will carry within us the Body of Christ, light of the world. What dark places might that light illuminate? To what acts of love will it call you? Whatever those acts may be, they will become a living and breathing part of God’s unfolding kingdom. And there is no story greater than that. Amen.