By Jessica Brodie
“The disciples came up and asked, ‘Why do you tell stories?’ (Jesus) replied, ‘You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.’”—Matthew 10:11-13 (The Message)
Storyteller. After five days in Portland, Oregon, site of the upcoming 2016 General Conference, where I sat elbow-to-elbow with fellow United Methodist communicators learning about how better to do our work for God’s Kingdom, that’s the word I keep coming back to.
Storyteller—one who uses words, actions or whatever other means at one’s disposal to communicate the tale close to one’s heart.
The Rev. Erin Martin, pastor and district superintendent in the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC, had some poignant words to share with us about telling that tale in a way that serves God best.
“We are people of the book, and we are people of the story,” Martin said, urging us to remember that telling the story of Jesus Christ is not enough, for we are participants in the story, too. And that’s where the role of Christian storyteller becomes blissfully unique.
As a Christian, it’s not enough for me merely to tell the story. To tell it right, I need to be inside that story, chest-deep in the struggle and the beauty, living it with my entire essence. Otherwise it falls flat. I need to live my faith, feel it in every hair on my head and every freckle on my skin, and in doing so, I’m able to communicate God’s message in a way that utterly transforms me—and gets His message across in a way so personally and effectively that lives are changed.
“Remember that stories have no limitations, and neither do we,” Martin told us.
In his book “What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self,” Franciscan friar Richard Rohr wrote, “Each of us is a story. We were created by God as a story waiting to be told, and each of us has to find a way to tell our story. In the telling of it we come to recognize and own ourselves.”
We are indeed people of the story, and there’s no half-hearted way to tell it. Let’s do our part to tell it whatever way God needs and with every ounce of our soul.
His Kingdom is the prize, and there’s room for everyone.