We all love a good story. For many people, some of their earliest memories involve books, settling down and hearing their favourite story read. Stories have a way of engaging the imagination and stirring the deepest emotions. And the better a story is written, the more you are drawn – without perhaps even realising it – into the worldview of the author. Stories are powerful tools that shape our values and our actions. If you want any proof of this, then think of say, a classic like A Christmas Carol or Henry’s speech before the battle of Agincourt. One carries a message about love and charity, the other about patriotism and doing your duty, and we all know what someone means when we are talk about being a Scrooge or “we happy few”.
For some reason, however, churches are tended to fight shy of telling stories. I guess we associate telling stories with saying things that aren’t necessarily true. But it’s perfectly possible to convey real life events as stories. Think of political dramas we see on our screens, or indeed Shakespeare’s telling of Henry. Just because a story looks at an event from a particular perspective, it doesn’t mean that the event it describes didn’t happen. We shouldn’t be ashamed of calling the gospels a “story” because they were written precisely to grip the imagination and produce a reaction of faith. And although the reliability of the gospels has long been called into question, what I find fascinating is that the more archaeology makes discoveries from 1st century Palestine, the more we discover the events described in the gospels authenticated. To quote just a few examples, we now have archaeological evidence for Pontius Pilate, we have found the pool called Bethesda described in John 5, we have found the stones of the temple thrown to the ground by the Roman soldiers.
And this Easter, it seems to me, is the perfect opportunity to re-engage people’s imagination by telling the story of that day. I think in our quest to present truth, we often distill the message of Easter into abstract statements, which are indeed important. But if we want to inspire a living faith, we also need to recount the story and let the Holy Spirit do His work.
Something I need to remember as I begin preparing for Holy Week…