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We Tell Stories!

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When you were a child, how many times did you beg your mom or dad: “Please give me another list of rules and regulations.”

Right. I thought so. Never.

But how often did you try to put off bedtime by begging to hear: “Just one more story. Please!?”

What do we do at family reunions and holiday celebrations? We trot out the same old stories, initiating each new generation in the stories of the ancestors. In their telling and re-telling, we make them living history, not just dead facts.

Stories are how we learn who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we are going. A mature human being lives a well-storied life.

There are stories that teach us about our identity as Americans — George Washington stories, covered wagon pioneer stories, North and South stories, Great Depression stories, December 7, 1941 stories, hippy-dippy sixties stories, 9-11 stories, Hurricane Katrina and Ian stories and lots of Pandemic stories. 

There are still other stories that teach us about our family identity. Ellis Island stories, proud moment stories, scandalous secret stories, celebration stories, triumph and tragedy stories, new love stories and old grudge stories.

Christians are more than just our country’s stories. Christians are more than our family’s stories. Christians have the “Greatest Story Ever Told.” We have the story of Adam and Eve. We have the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have the story of Jesus.

Our most basic identity as Christians? We tell the story of Jesus to the world.

But do you KNOW the living story of your faith?

The truth is that we Christians are woe-fully under-storied. A while ago a Pew study of religious knowledge found that our knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says – about religion in public life is embarrassingly low. How low?

Atheists and agnostics scored better than evangelicals or Catholics. The Bible‑belt Southerners scored the worst. Those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average, while those who say it is not the word of God scored slightly better. A lot of Americans think Deuteronomy is a rock group. More Christians than you’d care to imagine think Joan of Arc was married to Noah.

In last Sunday’s gospel (John 4:5-42) Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman as he rests in the shadow of Jacob’s well. According to tradition and culture, these are two people who should not speak to each other. In fact, except for Jesus’ initial request for a drink of water, he and the woman do not really “speak.” 

You say, well if they didn’t speak, what did they do?

They told each other stories…

Thanks to Leonard Sweet for these wonderful thoughts.    Thanks to Vitolda Klein for the photo.

How often do YOU pick up the Bible, read it and reflect on its words in YOUR life. Lent is the perfect time to do so.


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