Sunday, 12 October 2008


I was talking to a friend of ours the other night... And he's very into 'storytelling'.
That is, the art of telling stories.
He's a member of a couple of storytelling groups, and he travels to a number of festivals throughout the year to participate in storytelling events. He writes his own stories, or adapts traditional ones with his own twist and style - and he's very very good! I've heard him a couple of times, and he can captivate an audience of one or a hundred, and of all ages...
Well, the other night, I asked him what he hopes to achieve when he tells a story, and I thought his answer was very interesting.
I thought he might say 'to entertain people', or 'to put a point across', or 'to make people think'...
But what he actually said was far more profound:
He said that his hope, when he tells a story, is that those listening to it are different people at the end of the story to what they were at the beginning.
In other words, he tells stories to transform people, to change them in some way.
We found ourselves falling into a conversation about the stories Jesus told - my friend isn't a churchgoer - and I found it fascinating that his impression of Jesus' stories was that they, too, were told to change people.
So often in the way we handle the parables in church, we treat them as codes to be cracked, or as resource material for the 'family' slot on a Sunday morning, or as excuses for long complicated sermons in which we try to explain them.
I wonder...
What would it look like if we treated the parables as transformatory stories?
What would it look like if our preaching on the parables took the form of storytelling?
What would it look like if we expected those people listening to be different at the end than they were at the beginning?
Can we recover the transformatory power of stories?

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