I love a good storyteller. She has to ability to break the present, ordinary moment open to a sense of pure transcendence. A good story invites us into a thin space where we can float in truth and beauty. Go to a story telling event or an amateur comedy night and be reminded how hard good storytelling really is.
We need good storytellers to help us read the Bible and make it come alive, again, for us in this time and place.
During the Modern Age, Darrell Jodock explains in his book The Church’s Bible, the Bible lost a good deal of collective authority. This had to do with several cultural shifts including increased value placed on objectivity and the scientific approach and people connecting loyalty to tradition with stagnation.
The Bible, however, continues to withstand the test of time. Christians continue to find it useful to turn to the book. It is time-tested, but each generation has to reclaim it and rediscover its usefulness for their context. The Bible indeed has no authority outside outside the context of community and relationship. It is a book collecting dust until we open it, interact with it, and apply it to our communities. At its best, the Bible can connect us to other communities over time an space, providing a hold continuity. It can mediate the presence of God by providing a language of faith. As time goes on, we have to work harder and harder to translate that language in a way that is relevant to a world far from the original audience.
Reading the Bible with young people is a welcome challenge for me. We talk a lot about stories– those in the text and our own. We work to understand the original context so that we may apply it to our immediate context with care. Re-contextualizing the Bible requires imagination, creativity, patience and empathy. When we do it well, it is worth the work. The richness of the stories, if reimagined well, point beyond itself to God. They break open to transcendence. Beauty and truth rush in.
At the end of his book, Jodock invites us to simply take the Bible and read it. It will only speak when used in community and embodied in the daily lives of its members. In that way, we give the Bible it’s authority. It’s complex, worthy work.