Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus told stories. So do we.

Some version of this hits news stands this weekend. Enjoy.
If there is a universal currency that seems to have transcended country and culture across the ages of time, it certainly would not be the Canadian dollar, the English language, or a gift card to Starbucks. The currency of the ages is story.

I remember passing by an Aldo store full of people, shoes, and people buying shoes, which, at the outset, is totally normal. The giant advertisement in the window was, however, odd. Everything was in its right place; model in a short skirt, long legs, trendy shoes, and cool photography. The only odd part was the question on the advertisement: “What is your story?”

Is Aldo selling shoes or stories? I think the Aldo execs in Montreal know something that the church has sometimes forgotten: our stories are important.

Humans love to tell stories; they are somehow attached to our very nature. Every inspiring story develops out of mundane details of simple day to day living. It’s not extravagance or heroism that tell the miracle of life so much as it is the ordinary moments that all add up to something. The sound a humming bird makes when it hovers in front of a flower, the feel of rain hitting your forehead after a hard day of work, your child’s first words, an old friend emailing to say hi. These are the scenes life is made of; these are the ordinary moments translated into the extra-ordinary. 

We are storied creatures. Right from a very young age we learn to think, believe, and even process the world around us through the context of story and narrative. Not only that, we like to turn life experience into story. For example, a significant experience, a trauma, a close call, a surprise – whatever the experience – we tend to remember as narrative. We don’t necessarily recall the details or get them all right, but that’s not the point. What matters is that we have this story and it somehow shapes how we view the world around us. 

It’s no wonder then that Jesus spent much of his time telling stories. He spent his time wandering around with a vagabond crowd of blue collar workers, terrorists, drunks, sex trade workers, the religious elite who he continually made fun of, and even a few normal folks, telling them stories.  

Story and narrative was the centerpiece of Jesus’ preaching and teaching style. His stories weren’t cute little side dishes of garnish to augment or transition weightier matters. No. They were the epicenter of Jesus’ communication. Jesus hardly said a word to the crowds unless it was framed in story. 

Jesus told stories. Aldo gets it. Why shouldn’t we, the Church? I’m not sure when or how proposition, water-tight logic, and long winded homily took center stage, but it certainly hasn’t proven to be all that inspiring or compelling. I wonder what would happen if preachers spoke in the language of story? I wonder what would happen if preachers narrated, spoke in metaphor, and created images for people? Is it possible for Scripture to become self-evident to people through the stories that are told rather than it being explained point-by-point, proposition-by-proposition? Jesus thought it was possible; imagine if we did.