Friday, September 11, 2015

Telling Stories

In between Eden and Abraham, Genesis tells some pretty interesting stories. Stories are the roots of every family tree, and we’ve got some doozies!

Some of the stories that families tell are funny, some are tragic. Some evoke joy and laughter, some bring about sorrow and tears. No matter the type of story, they provide meaning and shape the identity of a family.

Sometimes a family is tempted to leave some stories out, to intentionally “forget” a story from the past. If a story is embarrassing or especially painful, it may be easier to just pretend it never happened.

I feel that way about the story of “Cain and Abel.” It is shocking and awful and will never be voted anybody’s favorite Bible story. But sweeping a story under the rug isn’t healthy, and refusing to acknowledge a dark and disturbing past simply isn’t honest. Every story in our past has helped shape our present. We are where we are because of what has been, even the stuff we’d rather not admit.

Yep, this is a story in which one brother kills another in a fit of jealous rage. His rage, by the way, comes from the moment when God preferred his brother’s offering to his own. 

So … nothing too troubling or disturbing about that one, eh?

But it’s in there; it is a part of our family tree. And so let’s tell the story … the whole story. And maybe, just maybe, we will discover a bit of grace when we do.

“What’s your story?” is one of my favorite questions. How someone responds to this prompt varies greatly from person to person. And because it is a bit deeper than your standard, “How ya doin?” it often catches people off guard, so that they really have to think about their answer.

The truth is, we don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to tell one another our stories. And those opportunities are shrinking. Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram have diminished our capacity to hear and to tell stories to a few words or a single image. Don’t get me wrong, an image can be very eloquent, and you can say a lot with 140 characters.

But it isn’t the same as eye-to-eye over a cup of coffee telling someone your story. A story is subtle and nuanced. A story means more than the words that comprise it. There are pauses. Time to think and reflect. Moments can be emphasized or understated with just a little accent here or a little inflection over there.

Telling a story today does not guarantee it will mean the same thing tomorrow. Telling a story to one person does not mean another person will hear it the same way. And as we retell them, in new times and to new people, we ourselves are reshaped, renewed, and we become brand new people.

We live in a clickbait world. Unfettered access to so much information has created a sensational atmosphere of screaming headlines and inane lists in which “You Won’t Believe #7” and tweets that pass as opinions. Where have the stories gone?

So over the next four weeks, my sermons are going to be stories. Just stories - one per week. The stories of Genesis in between Eden and Abraham.

I’ll not try to make a point, I’ll not try to persuade anyone of anything, I’ll not even read out of the Bible. I’m just going to tell some stories, and let the stories themselves do the “preaching.” I hope that telling these stories reminds us of who we are and to whose "family tree" we belong.

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