I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us
God’s people have always been story people.
(In the beginning…)
Stories shape our experience of God, they give language and image to that which might otherwise be unsayable and unknowable. In the contours of God stories—the stories from scripture, the stories we tell of our own experiences of God in our lives, the stories we see and hear in our communities—in the contours of God stories, we find him again and again; we find, too, ourselves, as we are and as God calls us to be.
God commands the Israelites to tell the story of God’s saving deeds to every generation; the prophets echo this same call. And then God comes to us as Word made Flesh: as God’s story itself, given bone and blood, breath and life, a beating heart.
(In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary…)
And of course, Jesus teaches with story after story—confusing, mysterious, but oh-so-memorable of stories:
(Listen! A sower went out to sow…
There was a man who had two sons…
In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people…
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead…)
And as people of God, in our worship of God, we tell the stories again and again: in scripture and sermon, in prayer and confession, and of course, in our Great Thanksgiving.
(Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ…)
Where does your story connect to God’s story? How do you tell the story of God in your life? What’s your favorite bible story? Which do you struggle with? What part of God’s story invites you in again and again? Where in scripture’s stories do you find yourself?
P.S. I can’t resist: a story about telling the story. In the introduction to his novel The Gates of the Forest, Elie Wiesel wrote, “God made man because he loves stories,” and he retells this old folktale from his Hasidic culture:
When the great Rabbi Israel Baal Shem-Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted. Later, when his disciple, the celebrated Magid of Mezritch, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen! I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer.”
And again the miracle would be accomplished. Still later, Rabbi Moshe-Leib of Sasov, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say: “I do not know how to light the fire, I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.
Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn to overcome misfortune. Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire and I do not know the prayer; I cannot even find the place in the forest. All I can do is to tell the story, and this must be sufficient.”
And it was sufficient.