As shown in my recent posts, I am a big fan of stories, especially how the Biblical story intersects with our own individual and community stories. I am an advocate of narrative theology, the idea that the heart of the Bible is not an instruction book of regulations and rules, but a story of God’s creative and redeeming that we live into. Yes, there are commandment and rules to follow; all stories have those. The commandments guide and shape the story but they are not the essence of the story. Stories have surprises, twists and turns, which the story actors discover along the way.
Last night NCAA championship basketball game had its own story. Butler University, a non-major University from Indiana, was playing for title against an established powerhouse, the University of Connecticut. The Butler Bulldogs was poised to write a new chapter in the “David versus Goliath” motif. I confess my own fascination in the developing storyline.
Then the game was played. Butler could not buy a basket, and the expected story fell apart. Now the Butler team and fans will have to adapt to a different conclusion to their story.
Stories have a way of doing that, not following the established plot line. Lives have that trajectory as well. One can follow all the rules, do all the hard work, follow the established norms and still not achieve the desired outcome. Or a surprise or twist of grace can intervene and a new story begins.
This Sunday the gospel text is John 11, the story of Lazarus. Lazarus was sick and his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for their friend, Jesus, to come quickly that Jesus might heal their brother. One would expect that Jesus would have honored their request. The story explicitly states: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5).
The story, however, takes a strange twist. “Yet when he heard that Jesus that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” Jesus deliberately chose not to rush to Lazarus’ aid. The story catches us off guard. That twist opens us up to a new perspective on Jesus and life. Jesus is not a magician who serves our needs. Jesus is like an author shaping the stories we live.
More on Jesus’ part in our story tomorrow.
Who are active writers in your life story?