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Telling the story…


Have you ever seen Moses as a stick puppet?

I hadn’t…until this year’s Easter Vigil. The 7th and 8th graders were in charge of telling us the Old Testament stories of faith which are a part of that ancient and beautiful liturgy. And the instructions we gave them were just that: tell us the story. Don’t necessarily read us the words out of the Bible, but tell us the story.

And that’s how Moses ends up as a stick puppet…and beautiful pictures fill the screen as part of a creation PowerPoint show…and a dove borrowed from the Christmas decorations flies above Noah’s ark on a fishing pole…and Jonah ends up spending three days in the back of a garbage truck instead of in the belly of a great fish. Not your “normal” Scripture readings, to be sure. But rich and funny and engaging and endearing in a way that only a fourteen year old can be when, as Jonah, he’s pleading with God to “smite me now.”

Teachers of preaching have been talking about it for years…the need to connect God’s narrative for the world to our own narrative…our own life story. Indeed, there is something powerful about getting The Story…God’s Story… into the language of our own story…of telling/sharing/speaking the Word in our own words…that makes it compelling. But this is more than just a good method for preachers. Seems to me that it might just be the essential challenge before the whole church. After all, we human beings love stories. We love hearing stories. We love telling stories. Stories make sense of the world. They put us in relationship with other people and the created order around us. Stories remind us of who we are, and help us share that identity with others.

In this respect, the Biblical story is no different than any of the rest of our stories…except that we share it with the God who gives it meaning…and who, in the process, gives us our meaning and purpose, too. Knowing and telling the Biblical story (or stories, if you will) reminds us of our identity and purpose every bit as much as the ones we tell around campfires and at family reunions and at a child’s bedside…and does so with an eye towards our most important relationship: the one with the God who, in Christ, has created and claimed us as his very own.

Here’s something to try. Read a favorite Bible story from whatever translation you like. Then tell that same story to your family or a friend using your own words and your own imagination. You’ll not only be relating something wonderful and needful to someone you love. You’ll be reinforcing the attachments of your own life’s story to the greatest story ever told.


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