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Aug 24

The Art of Storytelling

The more I read, the more I see how writing is an art. I’ve read books authored by people who are brilliant at their craft. They’ve made me laugh from my belly. They’ve made me cry tears of grief as they expose the turmoil and pain of their characters. Every one of these incredible authors have one thing in common. They have the ability to not only give information, but to pull their readers in emotionally as well. They don’t simply engage your mind, but your heart as well.

I enjoy reading aloud to my children. Recently I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis to them. We’re on The Horse and His Boy. At one point in the book, there are four characters sharing how they got to where they are. One of these characters, rather than giving a detailed list of what’s happened in her life to this point, tells the other three in the form of a story. C.S. Lewis writes an aside to the reader and says:
“…story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you’re         taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.”
That’s so true isn’t it. Essays have their place, but it’s usually in the back of a library in a dusty book that people occasionally reference to write their own essay.
This has nothing to do with fact or fiction. It has everything to do with method. For instance, if you’ve had the unfortunate (and all to common) experience of seeing history as a boring subject you hope to never have to endure again, I can almost guarantee you didn’t read good history. Good historians not only give you the facts, but they put you into the lives of the people they’re telling you about. You don’t simply learn about them, you feel what they felt. Good history is fascinating, tragic, funny, infuriating, and a good read. It’s not dry and boring.
The Gospels are not simply historical facts written down for us to recite later. When read properly, we find that the writers, such as John, are not only telling us what happened, but putting us in the shoes of the people who did it. They’re good historians.
John uses his skills as a writer many ways in this week’s passage recounting Peter’s denial. Perhaps one of the strongest ways he transports us into the shoes of Peter and Jesus is by setting up a deliberate contrast between the two. In John 18:17, Peter denies Jesus for the first time when he’s asked if he’s one of Jesus’ disciples. He lies. Yet right after lying, he warms himself at a fire. He lies and is comforted. Then as John takes us over to Jesus being questioned by the religious leaders, in verses 19-24, we find Jesus answering truthfully. Yet rather than being comforted by the fire like the disciple who just denied Him—Jesus is struck in the face.
Peter lies and comforts himself at a fire. Jesus tells the truth and is assaulted.
John then teleports his readers back to the courtyard where Peter stands warming himself. He’s once again confronted about being one of Jesus’ disciples. Two more times he denies Jesus. Twice more he lies.
The rooster crowed.
Jesus is assaulted not only by the hand of the official, but by the denial of his disciple. John shows his readers that the latter was the most painful.

For Further Conversation:

1.) The message talked about some mis-treatment Peter allegedly received at the hands of others in the early church.  Does it surprise you that church leaders would treat one of their own in this way?  What would that look like in modern times?
2.) Put yourself in Peter’s shoes on the night of Jesus’ betrayal and trial.  What fears would have been foremost in his mind?  What kind of responses do you think you would have at that critical moment?

3.) Earlier messages in Movementum have had you pay special attention to all the movement words in the biblical texts.  In John’s telling of the story, pay attention to all the stationary words.  Are there other ways in which John’s attention to language reinforces what the story is trying to convey?

 

4.) How is John’s account of the betrayal similar to the narratives in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (see Daily Reading for references)?  What details are different?  How do you understand such differences in light of the inspiration of Scripture?

5.) Would you say your own living relationship with Jesus Christ is moving or static?  What evidence supports your answer?

6.) Are there ways in which you have denied not just Jesus but your best self?  How has “settling” in your Christian life sold you short?

7.) The message asserted that every denial has a prelude.  Ever major fall starts with a minor compromise.  How do you respond to that?  How closely are you monitoring yourself in the small to ensure you do not take a step backwards in the large?

 

8.) How will you move towards Christ this week?  Be specific.

 

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