Content from Bible Engagement Basics, credit Lawson, SU Canada
Humanity is telling its own story, improvising scenarios, creating roles for itself- for all the other creatures, too, and of course for God! The roles that humanity creates are – in the view of these witnesses to God’s story – almost always not the roles intended for it. Humanity does not have any real aptitude for the parts that it writes for itself. Yet it seems to be perfectly at liberty to experiment very widely.
Douglas John Hall, “Thinking the Faith.”
Story is the narrative, saga, and drama of the Bible. It’s more than an arrangement of facts, ideas, propositions, or a compilation of spiritual laws. Story describes an account that is unified, immediate, multidimensional, relational, non-manipulative, unique and central to knowing truth and the One who is Truth. It is a spacious realm that we are invited to enter into with imagination and faith, and once we have entered, to see ourselves as participants. Story invites us to actively engage and get caught up in God’s saga by receiving it and reenacting it.
Story is integral to Bible engagement because it brings shape and structure to the Bible. The popular writer and theologian Scot McKnight, says, “The unity of the Bible is this Story. It is the Story that puts the Bible together. Our grand systems do not form the unity of the Bible; the Story that God tells, forms and frames that unity.”
God’s Story is the supreme Story. It’s the true story about life that promises and delivers abundant life. It demands a hearing! When we engage with the Story, it makes sense of all the other stories of our lives. “When it is internalized and it becomes your story, it gives meaning in the midst of meaninglessness and value in the midst of worthlessness,” say veteran college professors Preen Vang and Terry Carter.
The story for Christians begins when their personal stories unite with and are reconfigured in the light of God’s Story. Explicitly, the story for Christians is formed by God’s Story when they indwell the whole Story; when they’re grounded in creation, discover the disconnect in the Fall, find redemption and reconciliation through Christ’s death and resurrection, and become actively part of the church.
The meeting of our stories with God’s Story is not a simple affair. Encounters between people and God are complicated and convoluted. This is due, not to God, but to us. We have a tendency to confuse, digress and destroy. The problem is that we’re inclined to create an alternative story to the story God invites us to participate in. In our ignorance, makeshift settings are created, distorted roles are developed, and conflicting dramas are enacted.
When we enter into the Story in the way God intends, an elemental reconfiguration occurs that “creates a new world, a new history, a new possibility of fresh adventures, a new imagined opportunity, most certainly not just one damn thing after the other, and most certainly not just the duties and responsibilities that history allows us to discharge,” say Greene and Robinson. That’s because the Story is primary and history is merely the by-product of how we do or do not live our lives according to the Story.
Because the Story has a life of its own, Bible engagement only moves forward when we respond to the Great Storyteller (God) as He invites us to step into the roles intended for us. The roles are many and varied, including listening, speaking, reading, studying, reciting, memorizing, interpreting, singing, preaching, receiving, or acting – both individually and communally.
All our spiritual senses need to be engaged with the Story. We need to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8); open our eyes to the Story (Psalm 119:18, 82); and open our ears to the Story – “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” Mark 4:9. As we engage our spiritual senses with the Story there’s a growing realization that the Bible isn’t about God in our stories, but rather our stories in God’s Story.
In order for our stories to be immersed in God’s Story we must read the Bible as the story of our past, present and future. To indwell the Story we must remember what was, embrace what is, and picture what’s to come. This happens when we reflect on what God said, live out what God directs us to do, and get ready for what God’s prepared for us (cf. John 14:1-4).
If the Bible is reduced to a handbook for church dogma, a moral rule book, or a collection of wise sayings to guide people through life, it’s easy
for people to take it or leave it. But when the Bible is shared, in the power of the Spirit, as the Story which runs deeper than the world’s stories,
it invites people to enter into a different world and see themselves in a different light, that is – to share God’s view of the world.
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