STORYTELLING & Why Easter is the best time to tell Jesus’ story.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’ve noted in my books that storytelling is one of the best ways to communicate purpose and values. And my colleagues at Duke Divinity School have pointed out that never is there a better time for preachers to focus on Christ’s story, than at Easter.

“Some stories need to be told again and again. So it is with the story of Easter, a story that reminds us that we belong to God and that Jesus is out ahead of us, calling us to God’s future…” by Nathan Kirkpatrick, Faith & Leadership, Duke Divinity School, 3/26/18.

My colleague Christine Parton Burkett reminds preachers that children, after hearing a well-told story, never respond, “What does it mean?” Instead, with glee and abandon, they exclaim, “Oh, tell it again!” She reminds preachers that, as human beings, we never really outgrow our love of a story well-told; there is a part of each of us that wants to cheer, “Oh, tell it again!”

Several years ago in The New York Times Sunday Review, the Swedish writer Henning Mankell wrote that “a truer nomination for our species than Homo sapiens might be Homo narrans, the storytelling person.” Mankell’s argument was not that the biologists are wrong or that we are not thinking creatures but rather that we are also — and maybe even primarily — storytelling creatures.

We make sense of the world and our place in it through story. Story is how we create meaning, how we interpret reality, and how we come to know who we are and why we are. That is why when we hear a story that we know is good and true, we say, “Oh, tell it again.”

Literature professor John Niles, in a book called “Homo Narrans,” puts it this way: “It is chiefly through storytelling that people possess a past.” But it works the other way as well. Through storytelling we possess a past — but that past possesses us, too. It’s through storytelling that we find our identity…

It’s through story that we possess a past — a very particular past — and that the God of that very particular past lays claim to us. “Oh, tell it again.”

Each time the stories get told, we wrestle with our past, too. We wrestle with the violence of God’s people. We struggle with the sometimes inscrutable ways of God. We try to hear in some of these words the words of life, however faint they may sound. But in the telling of the stories, the past lays claim to us, and we lay claim to it. So we tell them again.

And yet it is not just the past that lays claim, because through story — through the particular story of Easter — God’s future lays claim to us as well…

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