Friday, June 07, 2013
My 10-year-old son has had a hard time this season. His baseball team hasn’t won a single game. They are among the youngest players in their division and have a high percentage of inexperienced players. But they have a great coach, and over the season they’ve improved dramatically as individual players as well as a team. Yet my boy still grew increasingly discouraged with the game and even started talking about playing a different sport next year.
The other night on the way to a game, I tried to explain to him why I love baseball. How it is a thing of beauty to me. The sound of a bat connecting with a ball. A perfect pitch. A good play. The patience and focus. The grace and rhythm. It’s hard to explain, I said, but there are times it takes my breath away.
So, it's not about winning, I told him, not that winning isn’t important. It's about playing the game—it’s about finding joy in the game itself, whether you win or not.
Glancing at him in the rearview mirror, I could tell he didn’t get it. But baseball wasn’t done with him yet.
It happened at the bottom of the last inning. His team was getting beat pretty bad. My boy was second up to bat and got walked to first base.
Then the catcher fumbled the ball and my boy—who loves to run and runs like the wind—stole second base. The very next pitch, the catcher fumbled again and my boy stole third and—when the third baseman missed the throw—my boy stole home.
It was one of those sweet moments in baseball. My son couldn’t keep the smile off his face. His team didn't win, but that didn't matter. When I looked at him the rearview mirror on the way home, he was still grinning. The conversation wasn’t about another sport, but about the new pair of cleats he wanted. My boy had stolen into the joy of the game.
The next morning on the way to school, we reminisced about the game again and I shared with him another reason I love baseball: it reminds us how to live life. Life isn’t about winning but finding joy in the journey. And in this life we often encounter the greatest joys in our relationships with others and in encounters with Jesus, who’s the one that shows us what love really looks like. The sweetest plays of life, I told him, seem to come when we are loving others and loving God.
As we talked, I could tell he was starting to get it—well, some of it at least. He’s got a ways to go in life just like baseball. He’s found joy in the game, but my hope is that he’ll discover that joy extends beyond pleasure in his own plays to joy in the plays of others—even the opposing team. That he’ll discover the joy in the simple sound of a swing connecting with a ball, a perfect pitch, the guy who makes a throw or catch look effortless, the smell of dust in a slide for home.
And I hope he always finds joy in life’s journey. The power of a good story. The chill you get when you realize our solar system’s star is only grain of sand on the universe’s beach. And belly laughs, holding hands, falling in love, good company and conversations, the satisfaction of a job well done, the unconditional love in a child’s hug, the joy of helping another back on their feet.
But my deepest hope is that he’ll encounter the boundless wonder of Jesus and the Story. For it is in my encounters with Jesus and that Story which wraps around him that I have found epiphanies, meaning, discovery, joy and possibilities for love and purpose that constantly surprise me in the way they are beyond my capabilities to reason up or imagine. It is in those encounters that I have found and experienced the most transforming and unexpected mystery, love, truth and beauty—all of which infuse and enrich everything else. It is those encounters that flicker in the darker parts of my journey. I wish I could explain it better, but there are times it takes my breath away.
Then, glancing at my boy in the rearview mirror again, I remember he’s only 10. He’s just at the beginning of his journeys in baseball as well as life. But, oh, the promise of joy in those journeys. That takes my breath away, too.
Monday, June 03, 2013
"You're the answer, Clark ...You are my son. But somewhere out there you have another father. And he sent you here for a reason. And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is."
I've had a long time fascination with the God-talk themes in the Superman mythos (from the small screen to the big screen). I'm getting more and more excited about this film with every new spot or trailer that comes out. This one really plays on the whole messianic theme in the Superman mythos. The film premieres June 14.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I’ve been a Trekkie since childhood. I was thrilled when J.J. Abrams' rebooted the franchise with Star Trek in 2009, and personally, I find Star Trek: Into Darkness an engaging follow-up. While it doesn’t seem to carry the same impact or weight of the first film (others explore that much better than I could), I enjoyed it. And it offers up a few good morsels that bring God-talk into open spaces—in particular the role of humility in transformation and the persistence of destiny in Abram’s universe.
In the 2009 Star Trek, the original Trek-universe timeline is altered due to the time-traveling Nero who changes key events in the lives of several original Enterprise crew members—including killing Jim Kirk’s father and destroying Vulcan. Despite the alterations, however, the original crew still end up the Enterprise, form their destined bonds that define and transform them, defeat Nero and save Earth from destruction.
Star Trek: Into Darkness picks up with the crew just as Kirk loses his captain chair for violating the Prime Directive on a primitive planet. Kirk’s mentor, Admiral Christopher Pike, narrows Kirk’s failure down to his lack of humility and his penchant to “play God,” concluding, “You don’t respect the chair because you’re not ready for it.”
However, Kirk is reinstated as captain after terrorist John Harrison attacks a gathering of Star Fleet officers and kills Pike. Admiral Alexander Marcus sends a vengeful Kirk on a mission into Klingon space to kill Harrison, but several of Kirk’s crew convince him to capture and return Harrison to Earth for trial instead of assassinating him. When Kirk discovers Harrison’s true identity and investigates further, he starts to question his original orders and Marcus’ motivations—as well as his own.
Kirk’s transformation is the main focus in this film, but I like how Abrams continues to explore how the relationship between Kirk and Spock transforms them both—and how humility plays a role in that.
I also appreciate the contrast between Kirk and both Marcus and Harrison (a.k.a. Khan, arguably the most celebrated of Kirk’s adversaries in the original timeline). In both, we see who Kirk could become if he doesn’t heed Pike’s advice:
“You think the rules don't apply to you,” Pike tells Kirk in the beginning of the story. “There's greatness in you, but there's not an ounce of humility. You think that you can't make mistakes, but there's going to come a moment when you realize you're wrong about that, and you're going to get yourself and everyone under your command killed.”
Balancing rule and law with doing what is right is a delicate thing. While the definition of what is right and good varies in this story (as this article in Psychology Today points out), Pike’s words remind Kirk (and us) that humility is key in making those decisions—and also in our own transformations if we are to become better people.
Marcus and Khan illustrate
the extremes of what happens without that humility. Khan’s arrogance is
particularly lethal as it is infused with vengeance. While he portends his focus
is saving his own “family,” he’s willing to risk their lives in pursuing his
Marcus is obsessed with security. He sees the Klingons as Earths’ biggest threat and believes starting a war the quickest way to eliminate them. He is willing to use and sacrifice the lives of others for his goals—with the Enterprise and her crew first on the altar.
Kirk learns that his crew’s survival—and Earth’s—means that he must be willing to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers and that others have something to offer. He must be willing to weigh the advice of and listen to others—even his enemies.
He allows the character strengths and advice of his friends to influence his choices, particularly Spock. He learns to make choices in the best interest of others and not just his own desires, best interest or ends.
In the end, he makes a most powerful choice—one quite opposite from his adversaries and one marked by humility: laying down his own life to save others.
|Paramount Pictures (via ifanboy.com)|
Kirk’s final choice is an intriguing reflection of the original timeline. Unlike many others, I appreciated the reversal of roles between Spock and Kirk. It allows a deeper exploration of the transforming friendship between these two characters whom we’ve known for so long. We get the chance to see and know them even more fully than before, especially Spock. I can’t help but wonder if Spock Prime wouldn't take some moments of introspective reflection after he learned of Kirk’s sacrifice.
I also appreciate how this part of the story affirms the persistence of destiny in Abram’s Trek universe. If there are any questions left regarding whether the first film’s “coincidences” were actually intentional in creating a sense of destiny, this settles it.
I like how these two films explore one of my favorite theories of time. As I mentioned in my post on Star Trek, it’s best articulated in Deja Vu where a scientist uses the image of river to describe time:
“The traditional view of time is linear, like a river, flowing from the past towards the future.” When another character asks if you change the course of the river, she replies: “Introduce a significant enough event at any point in this river and you create a new branch, still flowing toward the future, but along a different route. Changed.” In other words, an alternate timeline.
But another character suggests something different, that the river of time “is the Mississippi” and any changes we make are the equivalent of “lobbing what amounts to a pebble into it.” He concludes, “That's a very few tiny ripples in a kind of big body of water, don't you think.”
I like this image of time as a river, flowing from the past towards a future. Whatever rocks are thrown or dropped into the river can change the flow around the rock (change some events in time) but not the flow of the river as a whole. Time flows en masse together towards the same end. This kind of approach to timelines resonates with me because it echoes and makes the most sense in context of the larger Story of which we all are a part:
If Scripture is right, we know how the larger framework of the Story ends, this river of ours moving towards a sea of endless boundary. Though evil and darkness throw pebbles, stones and even drop boulders into that flow, the waters of time—permeated with God’s love, goodness, just-ness and right-ness—flow around it towards redemption, renewal and life. There is an abundance of free will within that flow, but nothing will change where that Story is going.
While the first film is more about the rocks lobbed into the river and this one is more about recovering the flow, the river of time in Abram's universe flows en mass towards the same end. While Star Trek: Into Darkness doesn’t have the same wonder and weight of its predecessor, I appreciate how it continues the sense of free will and destiny as well as the significant roles our relationships and humility play in transforming us. In reinforcing how much the crew (particularly Kirk and Spock) need each other not only to survive but to save others as well, it also reminds us of our own need for each other in our own Story—and how that grows humility in us, too.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
"We keep looking for the answers to those really tough questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? And are we alone? ... does your life actually matter?"
This is why I love science fiction. The film has gotten some good press--I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Releasing June 27 on iTunes and for on demand viewing and theatrically August 2.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Our culture is undergoing a profound post-Christian shift. Pew Research continues to track a growing number of those who claim no religious affiliation. Barna Group recently released a study evaluating 15 measures of nonreligiosity that indicated 37 percent of Americans are post-Christian. As a culture, we are moving away from shared language and assumptions of Christianity. The church as we’ve known it is moving to the margins.
I wrestle with what this means. How do we share the gospel in a culture that is growing increasingly uninterested in God and religion? What does it mean to be the church in today’s culture? Will we use this shift as an opportunity to renew and restore the church to our New Testament roots?
I am encouraged by the growing number of Anabaptist voices joining the larger conversations taking place across theological traditions. I am particularly cheered by the inclusion and embracing of Anabaptist voices in evangelical conversations, something I witnessed firsthand at the inaugural gathering of Missio Alliance near Washington, D.C., last month...
Monday, May 13, 2013
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Ender's Game is one of my favorite stories. Orson Scott Card's novel is not only engaging for its characters and story but also for the themes it challenges us to consider--from the line between good and evil and the blur between reality and games to the power of redemption, compassion for one's enemies and speaking for those who no longer have a voice. Slated for a November 1 release date.
Friday, May 03, 2013
Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion is a visually gorgeous science fiction film with a story that pays homage to those that have come before along with a few good twists of its own. I get why a large chunk of critics didn't like it, but I found Oblivion satisfying, especially in its exploration of memory and identity—and the roles those play in restoring a broken world.
Set in 2077, Earth is in ruins 60 years after an alien attack. Humans won the war but left the planet to start anew on a colony on Titan. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his partner Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) are two of the few humans left on the planet to manage and secure Earth’s remaining resources for the colony. They take orders from a colossal space station, the Tet, which carried humanity to Titan, and have two weeks left before they too can join the rest of humanity on Titan.
Both Jack and Victoria had their memories wiped before their assignment in order to protect information about humanity from any remaining aliens who might capture and interrogate them. The problem is that Jack is having dreams and memories from before the war—a time period in which he could not have lived. He’s nagged by questions and doubts and a longing he doesn’t understand. When Jack rescues a woman (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed space ship, he recognizes her as the woman he dreams about. Without revealing too much, Jack and Victoria begin to realize that things may not be what they seem—and they may not be who they think they are.
But how they respond to all this is very different. For one, embracing memory and true identity (albeit it complex) restores meaning and purpose and leads to risky and even sacrificial acts of love. For the other, however, the cost of accepting memories and true identity means losing something dear. Fear of that loss keeps them from embracing the truth—and that, as in our own world, does not bode well.
The restoration and acceptance of identity and purpose has a profound effect on the earth and humanity in this film—and the role of love, both being loved and loving others, is a catalyst in that restoration.
I love this story’s themes of love, memory and identity in restoring a world that isn’t as it should be because it resonates with so much of our own Story.
Films with broken worlds resonate with me because it reminds me that I, too, live in a world in ruins. Something isn’t right; the world isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. It is a broken version of a world yet to be whole. At one point, Jack reflects, “
I also love how Jack’s restoration of identity is inexorably found within the context of and connected to a larger story, one bigger than himself, one that compels him to work sacrificially with others to free and restore his world.
I think of our own Story like that. In Scripture, we discover a Story that makes sense of this world, how it came to be, why it is the way it is—and who we are. And we discover One who’s relentlessly and sacrificially working to free his creation and us so we can be the people we are created, called and enabled to be. It is a Story that compels me to join in, to risky and sacrificial acts with others in the work of restoring this broken world.
I also appreciated how love—the kind that will put the best interest of another above oneself—is at the root of Jack’s identity. “If we have souls,” says Jack, “they're made of the love we share. Undimmed by time, unbound by death.” Even stripped of his memories, love remains; it stirs and calls him to remember who he is and the story of which he is a part.
I find love at the core of our own Story. It is love that beckons us to embrace and accept our true identity. We discover the One who, as Henry Nouwen puts it, “loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return.” We discover what we were made for—to love God and others—and the kind of world we were created for.
And I love how restoration of identity is connected to others in this film. Jack needed help in his journey—those who knew and accepted him, flaws and all. So do I. “When our memories fail,” writes Lauren Winner in Mudhouse Sabbath, “it is our community that can tell us who we are… of our identity in Christ.”
And remembering a story together again propels us into the larger Story. “As Kathleen Fischer has explained,” says Winner, “faith communities add ‘an essential dimension to our remembering. In faith we not only gather our memories; we recollect our lives before God. Our stories then take on . . . meaning as a part of a larger story that redeems and embraces them.’”
I found it interesting that just as others play key roles in helping restore memory and identity in Oblivion, isolation keeps people from that. Jack and Victoria’s home sits on a tower above the ruins of New York and they are tasked with a purpose and worldview that is bent on separating them from the earth and the rest of humanity. When Jack brings Victoria a flower, she immediately tosses it over the side, afraid of toxins. She refuses to visit the planet below because it threatens the version of reality she so desperately wants to hold on to.
That speaks to and confronts my own life in our own world. I live in an urban suburb, which can be like a bunch of tiny islands isolated from nature and creation, neighbors, and the ruins of the world. Entering into the ruins of the world can be uncomfortable and even threatening—but always, it breaks through illusions and false stories and confronts me with the real world and Story in which I live. It reminds me of who I am.
These themes aren’t strangers to sci-fi. From classics like The Matrix to more current stories like Once Upon a Time, discovering identity plays an important part in how people perceive the world and their purpose. Restoration of memory doesn’t take place in isolation but in relationship with others. And embracing true identity has profound effects on broken worlds.
Stories like these help me remember who I am and the Story in which I live. And that brings God-talk into these open spaces.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
|Photograph by Greg O'Beirne / GFDL / Creative Commons|
This post is a slightly modified version of my column which originally ran this month at MWR.
The Barna Group conducted an online survey about people’s movie watching habits and attitudes last year. They found that the average American saw 1.7 movies in the theater and 10 more on DVD or streaming and still more on cable. Interestingly, Evangelicals saw 2.7 movies at the theater—more than the average.
But most interesting to me was this: only 11% of respondents said “they saw a movie in the past year that made them think more seriously about religion, spirituality or faith.”
Really? With Pew Research indicating 73% of Americans identify as Christian, I think this response may have more to do with how we approach films than the films themselves.
Maybe we don’t feel spiritually challenged by films because our culture encourages us to compartmentalize—put our faith in one box and our movie watching in another. Or perhaps we think of the culture around us as secular or absent of God and include movies in that.
But if we pay attention, movies can tell us about ourselves, the world and our own Story.
In an interview with Christianity Today, film critic Jeffrey Overstreet reflects, “A good movie is truthful—whether the subject is something beautiful or something terrible, whether it's an inspiring story of a virtuous hero or a troubling story about bad choices and painful consequences.”
Movies have the capacity to reflect something of the truest and best Story, the one in which we all live and breathe. Movies can reflect God’s truth and help us understand it in our lives today.
“I visualize an arch with one end anchored in the ancient world and the other in a contemporary cultural situation,” says Robert Jewett in Saint Paul at the Movies, who is alert for “parallel stories” in film that resonate with the stories in Scripture. “I look for the spark that flies between the two arches of the biblical text and the contemporary film.”
What we find, says Jewett, will help us understand biblical truth and “throw light on contemporary situations.”
So, how can we be more open to encountering those sparks?
First, we need to start thinking about movies as stories with the capacity to, as Jewett puts it, “disclose truth in their own right.” How does that truth help us better understand ourselves, the world and our own Story?
And we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss genres that don’t seem valuable. The Barna survey notes that the most attended films among Evangelicals were The Avengers (42%) and The Hunger Games (36%). While we might be tempted to dismiss science fiction or superhero movies as irrelevant to our faith, both stories have elements that bring God-talk into open spaces.
Don’t stay away from a film simply because it deals with darkness or suffering. There is value in these stories. “In depicting darkness, art … can also serve as a vivid reminder of the world that ought to be,” says Brett McCracken in RelevantMagazine. “[T]he redemption journey moves through all manner of blood-curdling atrocities and skin-tingling horrors along the way—and the Gospel is all the more beautiful because of it.”
That doesn’t mean every story is worth viewing. “Each person needs to know their conscience and their weaknesses,” Overstreet says. “That means we need to do more than check the film's rating.”
Read about the films you see. Find critics whose reviews are informed by their faith. And talk with others about the stories—and the issues they raise.
Movies have an amazing capacity to tell good stories full of truth. If the films we watched last year didn’t make us think more seriously about our faith, perhaps we didn’t choose wisely—or we didn’t watch well.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
But I must say, I am not missing it. At all. I’ve watched every single thing I’ve wanted to—and, if you read this blog, you know I watch copious amounts of television.
How did we do it? Basically, we hooked up a computer, HD antenna, and Roku to our TV.
If you are ready to take the red pill, here are some steps you can take.
Determine what you watch where
Start by listing the shows and programs you watch and note whether they were broadcast or cable channels; if they are cable channels, note which channels they are on.
Broadcast channels are easy; they can be received by an HD antenna. The cable channels are a little trickier. To access them for free, you can pick up many of them the day after they broadcast on Hulu or the channel’s website. But others (like CBS and FX, for example) will be accessible only on channel’s website (and some as long as a week later). If you don’t mind paying $2 per show, almost everything shows up on Amazon Instant or iTunes the next day.
Now if you are a sports watcher, you will have to do a little more research. We watch the Super Bowl and an occasional baseball game, so this wasn’t an issue for us. If you watch more than that, you will want to figure out what’s available online, through services like Roku, or simply by Googling “how to watch sports without cable.”
Hook up an HD antenna
Before you get an antenna, figure out how close the television stations are to you. Sites like tvfool.com or antennaweb.org are good places to start. We live relatively close to most of the stations, so we have an indoor HD antenna that we tacked up on our wall (behind a large plant, heh). You may need a larger one that you can place in your attic or on top of your house. You can then access all the broadcast channels (who knew there were so many!) directly through your television—or you can do what we did: access them through a computer.
Get your TV a PC
You don’t have to do this. You could access your broadcast channels through your TV and watch the rest of your media through services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant via devices like a Roku, Xbox, or smart Blu-ray player. However, if you want to record a show, see a show you missed online, watch shows not available on Hulu, watch sports services, etc., you will probably need a computer.
You could simply hook up your laptop in most cases, but we decided we wanted to embrace a new way of approaching our media and managing our viewing. We wanted to consolidate and access all of our media—films, recordings, television, music, photos, home movies, etc.—in one place.
We were fortunate to have a good friend who’d already done this, and he built us a computer specifically for this purpose. He gave us a choice between Linux and Windows based operating systems; we chose Windows because that is what we are most familiar with. (If you are interested in the equipment we used, see the note at the bottom of this post.*)
So, basically, we have a Windows desktop computer into which is plugged our TV and HD antenna (and a few other devices, see section below).
There is a lot of software (much of it free) to help you organize, access and play the media you want. For example, we use WinTV to watch live broadcast TV. You could use XBMC or Windows Media Center to access almost everything else—from recorded shows to movies and music you own to live streaming music to local weather to cable shows and other content available on the internet.
There are a lot of options and software out there—but be careful. Some software will access content illegally. It was important to us that all content we watch is legally obtained. So, do your research.
Other stuff to think about
Think about whether you will want to incorporate equipment you already own into or want to purchase new equipment for your media system. We plugged our Blu-ray, Roku and receiver into our TVPC. If you are buying or adapting a computer for your TV, you’ll need to consider if it is able to handle these devices.
Also, think about services you already use or might want to subscribe to. We already subscribed to Netflix and Amazon Prime, so we access these services either through the Roku or the TVPC. We are waiting on subscribing to HuluPlus simply because we haven’t seen the need for it yet.
Also, you will need to think about how you want to control the TVPC and your other equipment. We are currently experimenting with a Harmony remote (a kind of “smart” remote) and a mini wireless keyboard/mouse board. Still up in the air on which we will use the most. Again, lots of options out there.
Unplugged and loving it
There are still some glitches and bugs we are working through, and we are still getting used to accessing our media this way.
If a program is on cable, I may have to wait 24 hours after it airs to watch it, but then we usually did that anyway. Sometimes, I miss a show, forget to record it, or find it’s not easily accessible on the internet. But I can easily work into our budget $2 to watch the season finale of Justified or a forgot-to-record episode of Bones; these are drops in a bucket compared to the $100+ a month we were paying.
While I stopped watching cable news awhile back, I must admit that I was a little concerned to be without it in case of a breaking news story. But that turned out not to be an issue. During the Boston Marathon bombing, the network coverage was more than enough.
Bottom line? Every time I turn on the TV, I can't help but grin. The red pill was worth it--and I can have my steak and eat it too.
There's lots of information and articles out there about how to do this. Read them. Find what works for you. Then cut the cord.
I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.
*Basically we have a STATA 3TB internal drive, STATA Solid State Drive, 4GB desktop memory, an AMD A4-3400 APU with AMD Radeon 6510 HD Graphics Processor, ASRock Socket Motherboard, Hauppauge 1213 Win TV-HVR-2250 PCI-E x1 Dual TV Tuner (to allow us to DVR more than one show), and a DVD/RW drive all squished into a small boxy tower.
Friday, March 08, 2013
|screen capture/History Channel website|
Personally, I was most curious to see how the series would connect the stories. One advantage of a mini-series like this could be to show how, as Sean Gladdings puts it in The Story of God, The Story of Us, "there is a Story contained within all the stories, poetry, prophecy and letters that the Bible comprises." We often piece-meal Scripture and lose the larger Story that weaves through it. Seeing all the stories back to back affords an opportunity to see the progression of that Story more easily.
But I'm not finding that in this series like I'd hoped, mostly because I'm missing the underlying foundation that connects all these stories: God's plan and desire to restore his creation and his creatures to the way we were created to be; to reconnect us with him, each other, and the world; to restore his Kingdom--one characterized by justice, right-ness and shalom--upon the earth. And, perhaps most I'm having a hard time finding in the series the reason that God does all this: For God so loved the world...
But, as Peter Chattaway notes, this is only the first installment.
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
This post is a slightly longer version of a column that originally appeared at MWR.
When I was a kid in the late 1970s, I loved the 1960s television series . A friend and I transformed junk we found in our garages into tricorders and communicators and spent hours pretending to captain Federation starships. We even attended a small fan convention.
When I was a kid in the late 1970s, I loved the 1960s television series . A friend and I transformed junk we found in our garages into tricorders and communicators and spent hours pretending to captain Federation starships. We even attended a small fan convention.
That convention was miniscule compared to the film and TV conventions today. The largest and most well-known is the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which draws more than 130,000 fans and collaborators in pop culture ranging from comic books, film and TV to video games and webcomics.
What draws so many to gatherings like this? In part, the stories. People caught up in them enjoy sharing their enthusiasm and passion with others who feel the same. Many long to participate in the stories themselves.
|Whedon/photo by Gage Skidmore|
Writer and director Joss Whedon ( , he said: “When you’re telling a story, you are trying to connect to people… . it’s about inviting them into a world. And the way in which you guys have inhabited this world, this universe, has made you part of it, part of the story. You are living in . When I see you guys, I don’t think the show’s off the air. I don’t think there’s a show. I think that’s what the world is like… . The story is alive.”) put it best. Talking to an auditorium packed with 4,000 fans of his science fiction series
I wish more of us felt that way about our own Story.
Stories have great power to shape us. They fill our imagination, thoughts and emotions. They help us find meaning in life and influence how we see the world and how we act in it. Shared stories are particularly powerful this way.
Historically, the Bible is such a story. But while modern generations have unprecedented access to the Bible, many of us simply don’t read it. And while doctrine and faith statements are important, they lack the compelling power of the Story itself.
The way we approach Scripture may also affect our enthusiasm. We tend to take it in bits and pieces, losing sight that, as Sean Gladding puts it in , “there is a Story contained within all the stories, poetry, prophecy and letters that the Bible comprises.”
That’s how the early church and apostles saw it. In , Scot McKnight points out that the apostles lived and presented the gospel as a larger story (Acts 2:14-39, 10:34-43, 13:16-41, etc.). “[T]he gospel is all about the Story of Israel coming to its resolution in the Story of Jesus and our letting that story become our story. To come to terms with this story-shaped gospel, we will have to become People of the Story.”
“To become a gospel culture we’ve got to begin with becoming people of the Book,” says McKnight, “but not just as a Book but as the story that shapes us.”
For the Story and its Author — to whom it always invites — to shape us, we must let it, from beginning to end, fill our imaginations, thoughts and emotions and influence how we see and act in the world.
As we become people of the Story, we’ll find the Story actually is what the world is like. The Story really is alive. We’ll gather together because we long to share our passion and love for God and his Story. As Gladding puts it, we will be drawn into and our lives shaped “by the Story in such a way that you find yourself caught up in the mystery and the wonder that is the life of God’s mission in and to our broken world.”
In addition to the books referenced, here are two resources to aid approaching Scripture as story: (Zondervan) and (Kindred Productions and Christian Press), a study of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith.