the single story

It is a book written over hundreds of years by dozens of authors in numerous cultures. And yet it is one single story, guided by the Best Director, God, and featuring the Best Actor, God. Yes, the Bible is a remarkable book - and it all happened before the globe began to shrink.

In training people at the 'grassroots' it is critical that this one single story be heard and understood. It is too easy to divide the Bible up into unrelated stories, each with their own little moral for us. That is not the way the story works.

There are many resources which can help us, but maybe the simplest of all is Phil Crowter's Teaching God's Big Story, available free as a downloadable pdf here. Simple, clear, learner-friendly, concise, comprehensive - and with pictures!

But over the years I've had a tiny issue with it and so last week I decided to address that tiny issue.

While the text of the book covers the whole story well, the same cannot be said for the pictures. One picture is labelled 'Land' and then the next picture is labelled 'Jesus'. That is hundreds and hundreds of years in the Bible's story without a picture.

So I asked 'the laminating queen', otherwise known as Barby (my wife) to help me out. She made little packs of the eight images and in the training I gave a pack to each small group and asked them to put the pictures in order, as they followed the storyline of the Bible. Not a straightforward exercise because the images, on their own, are a little unclear. So that is good. They had to struggle a bit for awhile.

Eventually I showed them the right order. Then I pointed out this chronological anomaly between 'Land' and 'Jesus'. Barby had prepared a blank laminated card and each group was asked to draw their own picture on that card, a picture which best represented what happens in the story between 'Land' and 'Jesus'.

What fun we had.

With their additional card, three groups chose a version of this story:

One group, far more focused than my picture of their work, chose this direction:

A further group went in another direction with their one additional card:

As you can see, all the groups enjoyed doing their work on the same gorgeous tablecloth. Interestingly, none of the groups chose to depict the 'Exile' with their additional card. This fits with my sense that the Exile tends to be underdone when the story of the Bible is told.

As they chatted and played cards, their appreciation of the facts of the single story deepened. From there we moved on to the significance of the story and one of my favourite teaching topics, 'the four chairs'. So provoked were they by this discussion that some started talking about planting a new church, the Fourchair Foursquare Gospel Church.

nice chatting



Lyndon Drake said…
I would definitely have gone for "exile" and agree that it's a really underdone theme
Tim Bulkeley said…
I'm inclined to agree, though the episode of exile is not at all the limits of the theme, running through all the narrative books is the repeated motif of human failure as pride, lust, and the rest cause the story of the heroes to crumble in decay - it's not just David look at how Nehemiah ends. (Perhaps even Esther with the vengeance of the victors?) 'The Exile' is the focus of this wider theme.
Paul Windsor said…
I may be wrong, but I kinda see the OT story as about Exodus and Exile, with stuff happening before, during and after these two epochal events. One is primarily about grace as God 'passes over', the other is about judgement as God 'passes through'. And the whole Testament - well, both Testaments, for that matter - show these "themes" (as you express it, Tim) winding their way in and out of peoples' lives.

That is why, Lyndon, I agree with you. Exile is underdone and tends to be underdeveloped in peoples' understanding of the story.

Tim Bulkeley said…
Hmm, for sure exodus and exile are two major turning points in the story in history. But as themes, they sit (I think) along with land, kingdom, and temple, but even more with the perpetual reminders of human sinfulness.

All the heroes are broken, spoiled, rotten and by and large fail, yet through them the grace and even the redemption of God breaks in.

I guess to the extent we are saying different things I am more hesitant of reducing the complexity of the narratives which are the (main?) expression of the metanarrative.
Paul said…
Yes, Tim, Love those themes: Land, Kingdom, Temple ... and we could add Rest, Glory, Covenant, Law, Sacrifice etc etc. Lots of them threading their way through the story, giving it colour and variety and depth. But is not Exodus and Exile - God of Grace, God of Justice - the framework into which these themes sit? Maybe that is more what I was trying to affirm and I chose the wrong word. And so back to where we started - for this little booklet NOT to have a card for Exile seemed odd to me. Paul

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