A few weeks back, there was “An Epic Storytelling” at the diocesan cathedral. The Gospel according to Mark, in its entirety, was shared with anyone who wanted to hear it; despite being a busy time of year, more than 100 people wanted to hear it.
This was not told the same way I tell a story to my eager godson who wants to hear the same story time and again – read from the book, different voices for each character, pointing out the pictures, pausing the tale to ask questions, adding some fun onomatopoeic embellishments as fitting for a 5-year old.
This Biblical storytelling was done by a number of volunteers, who had each taken on a segment, spent weeks learning it, and then the telling came: by heart. No notes, no teleprompters, no cue cards. No props, no dramatisation, no embellishment. Just the words of Holy Scripture, encountered, embraced, and internalised.
The stories became known, learned, loved, and nuanced in our private practice. They were then publicly declared and unfolded the same way that these truths would have been originally shared. Some parts were shared by experienced ‘tellers’ while others were volunteering for the first time. Some folks had very short parts; others (with significant experience!) shared entire chapters. Some voices calm, others animated; some making eye contact with the audience, others glancing as though seeing first-hand the wonders they were speaking of. But all the voices declared the Good News authentically, revealing these parts which had become a part of them.
Even as one who has heard the story countless times; even as one who had a small part in the storytelling, the act of hearing the gospel was – is – profound.
The nitty-gritty details that we can get caught up on were absent: no one was checking if all the words were correct; no one was debating the academic benefits of one translation over another; no one was focused on historical context. We didn’t need to: we were transfixed by the power of the story itself.
The story is amazing. The story is life-changing. The story is alive and amazing and relevant, and unfolds for us time and again. It does not need to be added to, it does not need to be simplified, it just needs to be heard. Heard with ears that want to hear it for the first time, with ears that want to hear it again and again, that want to hear it afresh. It is a story that we all should be coming to with that untiring eagerness of a 5-year old; begging: “Tell Me a Story!”