(Don’t) Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 105; 147:12-20, Judges 14:1-19, Acts 6:15-7:16, John 4:27-42

What stories do you like to read or hear over and over again?

Storytelling is one of the most universal aspects of human experience. It serves many functions. Stories like those shared at wakes and funerals can comfort us. Family stories shape our personal identities. Cultural stories, like folk tales, myths, and legends help us make sense of the world in a way hard facts can’t. The author of Psalm 105 and the apostle Stephen both make use of the story of Israel, but to different ends.

The psalmist tells the story of Israel to reassure her people of God’s constant, loving presence. From God’s promise to Abraham that he would be a father of nations, through the arrival in and exodus from Egypt, to the arrival in the promised land, the central theme of the story – as the psalmist tells it – is God’s faithfulness to the people. Part of the joy of hearing a beloved story is anticipation of the familiar elements, and the psalmist certainly hits some well known crowd pleasers, like Joseph in Egypt and the ten plagues. A master storyteller, the psalmist does not make random choices, but carefully uses words and images to reinforce the theme of the story. By the end, listeners know they are a community of the Lord.

Stephen talks about the same events. However, because his intent is to build a case for Christ as the Messiah, he frames the events very differently. As the story unfolds we hear him describe Israel’s initial rejection of her major heroes – from Abraham to Joseph to Moses. He wants to convince the religious authorities they are making the same mistake with Christ. The different themes of the psalmist’s story and Stephen’s story clearly demonstrate the importance of not just the story, but the telling.

Stories tell us who we are by telling us who we’ve been, or who we believe we’ve been. We tell them to pass along our identities and cultures. Over time stories build on themselves and, their meanings can change. Each of us is shaped by and shapes the ongoing Christian story.

Comfort: A good story, like the ones in the Bible, never grows old.

Challenge: Read or listen to multiple sources of news, such as CNN, Fox, the BBC, and Al Jazeera. How does each tell the stories of the day differently?

Prayer: God of healing, thank you for the story of your love for us. Amen.

Discussion: What story do you like to hear or tell?

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