Saturday, 28 January 2012

of telling stories around the table

Last night I was the guest of The Last Supper, a gathering organised by my friend Cameron, of folk who like deep and engaging conversation ranging over various facets of life - religion, politics, social issues, humanity ...
Cameron invited me as a Biblical storyteller to come along and, well, tell stories, sharing a bit about storytelling as well.
We me upstairs at Jah'z Lounge in Cinema Place in the city - it's a lovely cafe, the staff are friendly, the food was delicious, and right by Palace and Nova cinemas, I recommend it for the dinner part of your next dinner & movie outing.
As we gathered, conversations already began to touch on issues and ideas that would be raised through the stories I was going to tell, such as: how do we meet each other in our difference, willing to listen, or assuming our worldview is the correct worldview and everyone else is just burning (in hell?) to hear the Truth we have to offer?
I began by sharing a little of what it is to be a Biblical storyteller -


I am a Biblical Storyteller – I learn the stories, tell them for an audience / listeners

In many ways, all artists are storytellers – different genres

Actually, we are all storytellers – each have a story to tell
As a minister, I am a story hearer – I create spaces in which we as individuals and as a community can tell our story, be heard and affirmed for who we are
Incidentally, I am not a biblical storyteller because I am a minister – I am a minister because I am a biblical storyteller
For those who follow Christ, the foundational story of our tradition and communities is the Story of God, the Biblical Story
We are called to embody this story with our living and our being

As a biblical storyteller, it is my privilege and responsibility to embody the story, so as to communicate, inviting others into the story of God, to be moved, transformed, to find healing and wholeness, to discover & encounter the Holy


I tell the stories so as to extend an invitation to encounter God in whom I have found healing and wholeness. I don't invite others assuming that this is the only way you can find healing and wholeness. I invite others because when you discover something wonderful - a piece of music, a movie, a book - you want to share this experience with others.

And this is the nature of Love, God's Way of Love - we know ourselves to be loved, and we cannot help but love in response.
I shared another discovery I have made this past year: God's Way of Love is named in the New Testament as the kingdom of God / heaven. Bruce Sanguin talks about the kin-dom of God - where a kingdom is about a king's power and territory, this term seems to me to be more about relationships (our kin) ... and it holds the radical contrast between God's realm and earthly rule with its hyphen replacing the g.

I talked a bit about how when I tell the stories of Jesus, and tell the stories he told, I find myself standing in his shoes, feeling the compassion he felt for those outside community, and his understanding of the restorative love of God.
I told the parable of the father and two sons (otherwise known as the story of the prodigal son), as one of the stories he told to demonstrate this unconditional, radical, challenging and uncomfortable love for those we think cannot be welcomed home.
Conversation ranged about how we respond to such stories, where we find ourselves in the story, and how there is a tension we could learn to live with that has us simultaneously the older son and the younger son (and perhaps the father as well).

'Tell us another story' - words that make a storyteller's day. So I told the beginning of the story of the beginning of our story - Genesis 1:1-5, and talked about how I translate the Hebrew 'ruach' with the three English words it conveys - 'breath-wind-spirit' - because these three meanings are held in the Hebrew word, and when we hear it in our language, I want us to hear the nuances, the complexity and the levels of meaning held here. I come to this decision because of how it feels, telling the story - in other contexts, I might translate ruach as wind or breath or spirit; here, it feels to me as if we need all three for the hovering ruach over the waters.

Conversation ranged far from here, as we explored what it means to live on earth, shared our knowledge and ideas as we wondered at the extraordinary growth in the earth's human population, and our relationship with creation.

I finished with the first part of a story I am developing as part of a series I began to imagine when I was on study leave last year: I am calling the series, 'In the name of ...' In this series, I want to explore how we see / don't see each other, as fellow humans, and how when we do not see each other, when we dehumanise other/s, we are capable of great harm: conversely, when we truly see the other, when we recognise the importance of each other for our own fulness of being, we are capable of great courage and extraordinary, life-giving love.

The first story I am working on for this series has a working title of 'Eichmann versus Wallenberg: in the name of what is right', and tells the story of Raoul Wallenberg's thwarting of Adolf Eichmann's plan to force the evacuation of all the Jews in Hungary in 1944, for the extermination camps. I appreciated some early feedback from the group, as I develop this, and other stories in the series.


It was a joy to share with this group of people - 8 or so around a table, engaging in deep, thoughtful, respectful conversation as we shared our stories, shared of our selves. For these moments, we are alive: for community, for the fulness of our humanity. For what else have we been created, but to be fully, beautifully, wonderfully, human?



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