Telling the story
I recall a comedian from overseas saying that in Australia, it’s not uncommon for people to use the phrase “what’s your story?” As a way of saying “how can I help you?” What can I do for you? When he went into a shop he was greeted with “g’day mate what’s your story?“ And the comedian thought “story? I didn’t know I had to have a story. Do I have to tell a story to get served? Er … let me think quickly what’s a story I could tell?”
More seriously, the West Australian newspaper carried the story of one of its journalists who was born in Ukraine but is now an Australian citizen recently returned to Ukraine to see for herself what was happening. The people she met in Ukraine said to her “tell the story“.
Since the beginning of the war, reporters have shared snippets of information - numbers and facts about the devastation: the number of casualties, the number of tanks, the cities which have been destroyed, where the Russians are attacking currently, the sanctions which are being applied and how they’re impacting Russia.
It’s different when we hear the story. The story is about people – soldiers and civilians, fighting, dying, suffering, losing homes and family, trying to stay alive.
Stories can change us.
There are people who think that when people talk about Christianity, they have to give out a lot of information, especially a set of rules and expectations. It’s not so. Jesus made it very clear that there are only two rules: love God – that is do your best to please him and honour him in everything. And love your neighbour – that is show care and compassion to everybody you encounter in your life who needs your help. Making that point was so important to Jesus, that it’s recorded by Mathew, Mark and Luke, and explored in detail by John.
The heart of Christianity is a story – a story of God loving his creation so much, and wanting to connect with people so much, that he came to live among us as Jesus, who allowed himself to be crucified, To convince us that God was not all about rules and punishments, but about love and grace.
You can read that story in the four Gospels of the Bible. Matthew Mark Luke and John. Each told the story of Jesus, what he did, what he said, who he was, and why it matters to us. As with any for journalists reporting a story, Matthew Mark Luke and John each highlighted the things that seemed most important to them. Mathew wanted to point out to the Jews that Jesus was their promised Messiah. Mark seems more interested in the things Jesus did than what he said. Luke was a physician, so he highlights stories about people in need or suffering. He tells stories about women, and actually lists the names of the women who were among Jesus’ disciples. And John sets out to Convince the reader that through Faith in Jesus we can have a fulfilled life.
So the four Gospels are not identical, but compliment each other.
And like any good story we enjoy it over and over. If you have kids or grand-children you’ll know that Kids love to have a book read to them again and again. They learn the text, anticipating what’s coming next, and reciting it along with their parent or teacher. In fact, for children, A step in the process of learning to read Yes to recite the story as they turn the pages, even before they can recognise the words in the text.
Some people think that the Bible is a series of unrelated short stories. It’s not. The Bible contains History, confirmed and documented in other sources, folklore, poetry, wisdom and advice, narrative, letters, Prophecy, dreams and visions. A number of authors contributed to it. But the Bible is one book, not many. It’s one story, containing, like any good story, many characters, events and subplots. It is the story of God reaching out to his creation, and people reaching out to God.
And that story does not stop at the end of the Bible. It has been going on for 2000 or so years since the last writings and continues to this day. God continues to reach out to us, and people continue to reach out to God and connect with him.
If you haven’t read it before, I haven’t read it for some time, read the gospel of John. At the very end of his book about Jesus, John writes
“Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.”
John 21:24-25 NLT
If you don’t have a Bible, you can read the Bible online in almost any language and free.
So Christians are storytellers. They tell the story of Jesus, and they tell their own stories of how they connected with God, and how it changed their lives for ever.
It could be your story too. You may have seen, you may have purchased online a kids’ book with your child’s name inserted throughout the book as the hero of the story. The child gets to hold and read a book in which they are the hero.
In a rather more genuine way, the Bible story, the story of people seeking to connect with God, can have your name in it.
Thank you for your time. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you want to email me, you’ll find a link on my website: Philridden.com.au.
I leave you with this prayer:
My children love a story, Father.
As I read, their minds are active:
Enjoying the sounds of the language;
Creating images from words;
Evaluating what is happening;
Anticipating the consequences;
Learning about the characters.
And when the time comes to stop,
Or when the story is complete,
There is often a cry of
‘Just one more story’;
‘One more chapter, please ….’
You know how we love a story, Father—
Not just kids,
But adults too:
stories told by good yarn-spinners;
stories published in books;
stories told in film;
stories narrated in songs.
Is that why you told stories
When you were on earth?
Your stories connected with people:
their family and friends,
Their distress …
And through the stories,
We still learn—
I’m not so skilled with stories, Father,
But I can tell your story,
The good news story of Jesus;
How he revealed your character,
How he opened a way for us to connect with you,
How he showed us how to live,
How he allowed us to begin again—
for one time,
and every day.
And I can tell our story,
The good news story of how we met,
And how we go on living
Help me to share the stories, Father.
All Jesus did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy: I will open my mouth and tell stories; I will bring out into the open things hidden since the world’s first day. (Matthew 13: 34–35, MSG)