Memoirs of a First Century Story-keeper
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is a fascinating story of God’s love. This life-changing story has been (re) told for the last 2000 years. In fact, followers of Jesus ( in every generation) have been “Story keepers”. They have kept the gospel story alive by re-telling it to their world.
The followers of Jesus have kept the story alive despite opposition, oppression and persecution. Our fore-parents heard the story and their lives have never been the same again. The history of the transformation of individuals and communities in India is a fascinating read. We are story keepers too!
It is important that we re-tell the gospel story “responsibly”. How, then do we retell the story. We don’t have to grope in the dark. Fortunately, the bible has enough examples for the 21st century “story keepers”. Let us listen to a first-century “story keeper” and learn some lessons.
Many people have tried to tell the story of what God has done among us. They wrote what we had been told by the ones who were there in the beginning and saw what happened. So I made a careful study of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place. Honorable Theophilus, I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard. (Luke 1:1-4)
Firstly, there was a willingness to step out of his comfort zone. Luke was a physician by profession and yet was willing to venture into Philosophy, Theology, Religion and Literature. Contemporary Christian storytellers/keepers have much to learn from Luke. We must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and venture out into various academic disciplines to communicate the gospel story to a contemporary audience.
Secondly, there was a willingness to do research. Luke made a careful study of what has been handed over to him. He did a careful study of the various components of the gospel story. The bible accords legitimacy to research and historical investigation. We need to know the various components of the gospel story. Post Da Vinci Code (DVC) it is imperative that we know what we believe and why we believe what we believe. Only then, our story would have authenticity, authority and acceptance.
Thirdly, there was a willingness to present the story attractively. Luke arranged the different historical facts and eyewitness accounts and wrote them down in an orderly manner. Biblical scholars point to the fact that Luke had written the gospel story as a novel. Moreover, it could even compete with the novelistic literature of his time. In modern parlance, it could be sold in any newsstands and book shops.
Luke helps us to understand that we need to reach out to the wider culture with the gospel story. We need to make an “attractive” and “intelligent” presentation of the gospel story.
Fourthly, there was a commitment to excellence. Biblical scholars bear testimony to the richness of Luke’s language and vocabulary. His ‘Jesus novel’ was no haphazard work. On the contrary, it was quality work that could demand a reading by a highly literary audience. We need to learn from Luke’s commitment to excellence.
Fifthly, there was a willingness to bring his expertise into his gospel storytelling/ keeping . Biblical scholarship points to the use of medical terms and vocabulary familiar with physicians of the time. The Christian church has a rich talent pool. The cumulative of all our shared knowledge and expertise could be used to produce the best. If we can add our professional skills to contemporary Christian storytelling/keeping then, our storytelling would be cutting edge.
Lastly, Luke was purpose-driven. He was not re-telling the gospel story without a purpose. This was to make sure that his audience would come to know the truth. That they would know the certainty of what they believed in. Luke wanted his audience to know “what” their beliefs were and more importantly, “why” they need to continue in those beliefs. The entire exercise was done so that his audience would learn to appreciate the truth, beauty and goodness of the gospel story.
It is said that he who captures the epoch, captures the story. Conversely, he who captures the Story, captures the epoch. Who are the storytellers of our times? We are called to be Story-tellers/keepers. We need to tell the gospel story in a manner that would capture the imagination of contemporary audiences. It is not just enough to tell the gospel “attractively” to command a listening audience.
It is important that we tell the gospel story “responsibly”. True, telling the gospel story in an information age isn’t easy. But then, every generation of story keepers have done it facing the odds. We can (and we must) live/tell the story of Jesus and keep the story alive.
Samuel Thambusamy works with Barnabas Today. He is a PhD candidate with OCRPL and lives with his family in Bangalore
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash