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THE POWER OF STORY

November 14, 2009 2 comments

A few months ago I was on the couch in a hospital room talking to the patient’s family member about genealogies. She told me stories about how she’d got started on her quest, about adventures she’d had in searching for more of her ancestors, and about future trips to Europe she’d love to take to continue her search.

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In the course of our conversation, she made a statement that to me was ripe with intrigue and insight. “I’m not satisfied with writing my ancestor’s names on a piece of paper,” she said. “I want to see their pictures and read their stories.” That’s when her history comes to life. It’s the faces and the stories that she’s after, not mere lifeless letters arranged on a piece of paper in a particular order to form names.

As soon as those words left her mouth, I immediately began contemplating the implications of that statement for me as a preacher.

  • When I talk about characters in the Bible, do I treat them as simple, one-dimentional stick figures from the past–mere characters–or do I view them as individuals with complexities and inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies–real people?
  • Do I tap in to the power of story to engage, enlighten, and inspire as Jesus did so masterfully?
  • Am I interested enough in the people I preach to each week to hear their stories, feel their pain, share their joys, sympathize with their weaknesses, praise their strengths, endure their frustrations, give them the benefit of the doubt for their imprudence, and accept their quirks (as they do for me)?
  • Am I in touch with the human experience enough to connect absolute truth to everyday life? Or do I unintentionally imply a disconnect between the two by teaching truth abstractly, as though truth were something only to be understood and believed and not lived–nothing but useless fodder for intellectual curiosity?
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