In the last two months excavation and construction across the street has sent reverberations through the bedrock, shaking the foundations of our church building and thudding (sometimes pounding) through the floor of my office. I'm convinced that at times my pulse is aligned with the jackhammer. Needing a break from the action I began a few days of retreat last week by walking a labyrinth, praying a few hours and sitting in solitude at the local seminary. Wouldn't you know it? Someone was using a power tool in close proximity to the prayer room. My subsequent retreat days were at Highland Retreat.
Among the many spiritual disciplines that help me pay attention to God's Word, Biblical storytelling makes my heart pound. This year during the Lenten-Easter season I committed two scriptures to memory: the stories of Barabbas (from Mark's passion) and Mary Magdalene (from John's resurrection account). I participated in a couple of grand “tellings” including both an outdoor ecumenical stations of the cross on Good Friday with other Biblical storytellers sharing the passion story from memory at each station, and an indoor Sunday afternoon event where Biblical storytellers shared resurrection stories from the gospels, Acts, epistles and Revelation. I admit I get a charge out of the whole process. Learning something by heart includes a lot of “errors” along the way. One gets it wrong a lot before one gets it right. I get it in pieces before I get it whole. And just when I think I’ve got it, it gets me. God gets me and my heart pounds.
Biblical storytelling is somewhat addictive. I've already committed to telling at an outdoor vespers service at Crossroads Brethren Mennonite Heritage Center on Sunday, July 12th.
The theory of Biblical Storytelling recognizes the power of the word spoken from the heart rather simply read. Now, it's true that sometimes public scripture readers truly proclaim the Word and whoever has ears to hear feels directly addressed by God speaking through the scriptures. However, it's also the case that we have often “read through” (or listened through) the scriptures expecting the subsequent hymn, sermon or (rarely) silence to enliven the scriptures so that they actually inspire, or convict, or comfort or announce.
But every time I've heard Biblical Storytelling, it's as if I hear God speaking. I've never heard an audible divine voice. I'm one of those believers who relies on the historical reverberations. When I hear Biblical storytellers share from the heart, with their own understanding of the emotional quality of the passage, I hear more reverberations in these ancient words. I'm aware of the bedrock of sharing and living the scriptures one generation to the next and the fragility of the whole enterprise of the church—we could forget. But we belong to a family that encompasses the living, the believing, the still doubting, those who have not yet heard, the God who resurrects and the One who was dead, but lives again, whose presence and absence makes our hearts pound.