Monday, September 25, 2006

My Favorite Bible Stories, Part 1

The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is filled with stories.

There are stories of God's people, both those of the first covenant, the one made with Abraham and his descendants in about 2100BC, and those of the second covenant, made with all people who believe in Jesus Christ.

There are stories told by prophets and preachers and by God-in-the-flesh, Jesus, which are known as parables: stories employing the common stuff of everyday life, but which have, rolling alongside them, a narrative about God's reign and how it works. (The word parable means, in a way, throw or roll alongside.)

In an ultimate sense, the main character in every one of the stories told in the Bible is God.
  • It's God Who creates the universe and humankind, initiating a special relationship with us in which He pours Himself into us time and again in countless ways.
  • It's God Who, after humanity fell into sin and away from Him, refused to give up on us, such is the toughness of His love and commitment.
  • It's God Who became one of us and lived out what is rightly called, the greatest story ever told, the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.
Stories, especially Biblical stories, have power. As a preacher, I've watched crowds who, moments before were squirming and coughing and whispering and mentally wandering suddenly become quiet, intent, nearly breathless as they listened to a story.

Stories invite us to share others' realities. One of my sisters, after hearing me preach a sermon years ago, trying to explain the power of stories, told me, "I think people like to hear what happens in other people's lives. It makes them feel less alone, less weird." Stories demonstrate our common humanity and thereby, comfort us.

The stories in the Bible invite us to share in God's reality: first, the reality of human alienation from God, of God's grief over that, and of our need of God and then, the reality of newness of life that God has offered all who will turn from sin and let Jesus be the God and King of their life.

In a very real sense, when Jesus calls us to repent and follow Him, He's inviting us into a new story. Paul says that we become part of a new creation. Through Jesus Christ, the old story that ends in death is supplanted, the page is turned, and a new adventure, our relationship with our heavenly Father now restored, begins.

In this new story, Jesus' pilgrimage through death to new and everlasting life becomes our pilgrimage. Virtually all the stories in the Bible point us in some way to this wonderful Lord and to the eternity-ever-after He gives to all who believe in Him as a matter of divine charity, what the Bible calls grace.

My blogging will likely be light this week. But, as we go through this series, I'm looking forward to sharing some of my favorite Bible stories with you. Some will likely be well known to you. Others may not be. But each is a gem and as we look at them, I hope to show you why I say that.

I hope to come back here tomorrow to tell you the first of my favorite stories from the Bible.

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